Pardon me, but your new work is showing
The Blue Room’s Fresh Ink might leave a permanent stain
“It is nothing short of a miraculous glimpse into the vastness of the creative process.”
—from the program notes to Fresh Ink, the Eighth Annual Festival of New Plays
As an admittedly shameless sucker for miraculous glimpses of all sorts, and particularly those concerned with vast creative processes, I have to confess the aforementioned bit of poker-faced hyperbole coaxed a crooked grin to lips that had moments before been caressing the business end of a bottle of organic ale. I swear it was neither a smirk nor a sneer, more the sort of mock-sardonic leer that, assisted by an arched eyebrow, precedes the phrase, “Then please, dear boy, do show me how it’s done,” when one’s companion proposes some unlikely scheme.
I was in the proper mood for some good Blue Room-flavored fun and mentally prepared for the usual potpourri of mixed emotions and mangled narrative structures that this mainstay of local theater specializes in.
Tonight didn’t let me down.
First up was John W. Young’s tale of off-kilter love, “The Taste of Sourdough Bread.” The tale is told by an onstage narrator (Marcus Sams) who describes and relives his encounter with a mysterious, trench-coated young lady who, claiming to be the granddaughter of the Dr. Watson, admonishes his taste in bread and invites, or coerces, him home for dinner.
The dinner scene exhibits a fine talent for comedic writing on Mr. Young’s part and allows the actresses, Cynthia Domaruk and Rose Dorbin, plenty of room to exercise their considerable talents. Sams also comports himself admirably, but it’s fair to say that I cannot reveal the essence of the narrative, because I could not decipher it.
The second piece on the program, “The Catechism,” by Sanford Dorbin, is a very engaging, if ultimately very opaque, device wrought of decoratively absurd language and action. Devoid of recognizable character development or narrative movement, the play instead offers a series of enigmatic, sometimes funny, sometimes lyrical evocations of mystery; hence the title of the piece. When the little girl character intones, “I want to be on the outside looking out,” it is both humorous and deeply evocative of the mystical, poetic urge.
The intermission leads nicely into Sean Proctor’s “The Commercial.” A much more offhandedly goofy piece than either of the previous two, “The Commercial” is a series of skits in the form of advertisements for such things as a “Coming Out” service to help one inform one’s family and friends that one is gay, and the space-age polymer Vomit Stick for fastidious bulimics. The quick pacing and lowbrow intent of the skits serves as an intellectual palate cleanser after the challenges of the first two pieces, and the cast dishes up the heaping platter of nuttiness with infectious enthusiasm.
The final playlet, “The Master Electrician,” by Herbert Gerbel, is actually a rock mini-opera played live and sung in its entirety. The feat of composing 20 minutes’ worth of often quite cleverly constructed rhyming couplets that also tell the tale of a young couple’s struggle to achieve rock star status while working for next-to-nothing in a criminally filthy restaurant is worthy of applause, even if the singing isn’t. And the nonstop musical accompaniment by Kelly Bauman on acoustic guitar and Elizabeth Latimer on toy xylophone is very well done.
As a "miraculous glimpse into the vastness of the creative process," the show may give one pause to wonder about the intrinsic value of same. And that’s a good thing to wonder about.