The Journal News
Get in to "Inside/Out"
Peter D. Kramer
October 31, 2008
If you lived in the world of Axial Theatre's one-act evening "Inside/Out" - running through this weekend at St. John's Episcopal Church in Pleasantville - you'd fear fatherhood, wonder if having kids was a smart idea, consider adoption, ride your bike to work, cheat on your girlfriend, long for love and might be homeless.
And your world would be funnier than the one we're living in.
Axial, Pleasantville's 10-year-old laboratory for new theater, kicks off its milestone season with an evening of brisk comedies, revisiting two favorites and adding two more.
The 15-member company of actors, writers and directors embraces the process of creation, conceiving and writing new works and then improvising them into shape in a long process that includes audience feedback.
Despite their circuitous route to the stage, these plays pulse with possibility. If they were any fresher, you'd slap them.
In Brian Hugh O'Neill's "Junior," directed by Jacob G. White, Margie Ferris and Mark Gorham are husband and wife Tom and Ellie, expecting a baby boy.
But to Tom, the boy, Junior, is already very much here - in the person of Axial founder Howard Meyer, clad in a diaper - and he's forcing the soon-to-be father to confront parenthood head on.
If Tom has questions - and he certainly does - Junior does, too, wondering if this Earth is worth a birth.
"Have you read the paper?" he asks his future father.
This thinking-man's baby comes up with a plan to back out of his date with the stork - creating some heartfelt and genuinely tense moments that are what live theater is all about.
Before too long - it's only a 35-minute play - Tom comes to realize that there's no perfect time to become a father, there are no guarantees that he won't fail at fatherhood, but there is no reason to fear fatherhood, as long as he and Ellie love each other.
The writing is natural - though sometimes jumbled in delivery, with some lines stepping on others - and White manages to build the story to its conclusion.
Ferris finds the right mix of love and confusion, Gorham delivers a good slow burn and Meyer, well, there's just something funny about a grown man running around in a diaper. Michael Raymond Fox and Cesar Leonardo, are fine in supporting roles.
James Christy's "The Ride," directed by Ferris, does what a one-act should do: It makes you wonder what's going to happen next.
When Lola (Laura Credidio) and Frank (Ryan Mallon) meet at a bike rack, she's not happy and he's intrigued.
They both believe that part of who they are is informed by their method of transportation. They ride bikes. They're the good guys. They're green.
But they arrive at this bike rack having been wronged. And they're about to do something about it.
Credidio is appealing as the straight-talking Lola and Mallon is charming as the put-upon Frank. Sean Weil is appropriately oily as Lenny, the gas-guzzling man they have in common.
The setting of Jeanne Dorsey's "Babytalk," directed by Credidio, will be instantly recognizable: Modern moms sitting at the park, watching kids play.
But in this thoughtful slice of life - well-acted by Cyndi Sciacca, Sara Carbone and Gloria M. Buccino - all is not as it appears: The sand is always deeper on the other side of the sandbox.
"The Shroud of Turin," by Linda Giuliano and directed by Meyer, introduces us to two lost souls, Stella (Gail Greenstein) and Isaac (Dale Furnia), who find each other.
They are homeless and dirty, hurt and confused, schizophrenic or bipolar. And riveting.
Greenstein is a study in concentration as Stella, warding off strangers with a feather and charting the cleanliness of Manhattan avenues: "Fifth is clean" and "I never walk on Ninth."
Furnia is endearing as a man with two weeks of medication left who still dreams an American dream - wife, kids and a golden retriever, "because goldens channel angels."
Stella wants a whale and a wolf. "I think it'd be a good fit," she says.
Here, together, they share more than the beans Isaac cooks over a lighter's flame. For one thing, they share Giuliano's poetic non sequiturs.
It's a good thing "The Shroud of Turin" is one 15-minute act.
To quote Stella: "Too much of a good thing is lethal."
And "Inside/Out" provides just enough of four more-than-good things.