ReAct rotates odd couple of plays in repertory


David Hsieh's ambitious young company, Repertory Actors Workshop (ReAct), is taking its name seriously, by presenting two plays in rotating repertory.

"The Woolgatherer" is a 1979 drama by William Mastrosimone, best known for his exquisite dialogue for characters in coarse situations, in such plays as "Extremities" and "Shivaree."

The three-decade-old romantic comedy "Barefoot in the Park" is one of the prolific Neil Simon's earliest successes.

Hsieh took on the task of directing both productions, which opened a day apart. While they share the same basic set (designed by Hsieh, who designed the sound and props as well, and also might be the person selling your ticket at the box office), the two plays seem to be an odd couple.

"The Woolgatherer" is an unpredictable drama concerning Cliff (T.J. Langley), a trucker hoping for a one-night stand with a mysterious young woman named Rose (Colleen Parker). While it contains a few beautifully written monologues (including a couple that have become standards among actors' audition pieces), it was Mastrosimone's first produced play and had the feel of being more of a character study than an actual play.

There are a couple of "if only" moments in the script. If only Cliff would walk out the door as he really should, there'd be no play. On wonders why this seemingly intelligent, witty man is interested in a woman who is, at best, amazingly naive, and possibly unbalanced.

Langley and Parker were winning young couples in ReAct's productions of "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "PRelude to a Kiss." However, they don't display the right chemistry for "The Woolgatherer."

And audience members unfamiliar with Mastrosimone's script may be trying to figure out Parker's character from an angle that was unintended by the playwright: For much of the first act, it appears Rose is a very young girl rather than a young woman, imparting Cliff's attempted seduction with truly creepy overtones.

As the play progresses, Parker becomes much more confident in the role, and deftly handles the delicate moments when Rose finally opens up. Langley is charming as Cliff, so charming that his crude comment of wanting a "wham, bam, thank you ma'am" with Rose is unconvincing.

Simon's slight 1963 comedy, "Barefoot in the Park," follows Corie and Paul BRatter, two young New York City newlyweds in the second week of their marriage, when the honeymoon is definitely over.

While the fun-loving Corie (Kathy Hsieh) is still getting a kick out of life - and trying to match up her mother (Helen Kay) with the eccentric older gentleman living on the roof (Stan Asis) - her husband Paul (Gordon Hendrickson) is, to her horror, settling down to a staid life as a proper and dignified stick-in-the-mud.

Soon enough, the Bratters are fighting, Paul is relegated to sleeping on the couch, and they're talking about filing for divorce even before the marriage license has arrived.

Hsieh and Hendrickson appear to be having a great time as Corie and Paul. She hops all over the apartment like a young woman truly delighted to be setting out on the Great Marriage Adventure. Hendrickson has just the right mix of youth and maturity for the sensible - and moderately priggish - Paul.

Sheila S. Williams has a couple of nice moments as a telephone repair person. Practically all of the characters make pointed comments about having to climb five stories ("six, counting the stoop") to get to Corie and Paul's apartment. Don Bradshaw is hilarious in a wordless cameo appearance as an exhausted delivery man.

November 13, 1997


Barefoot in the Park. By Neil Simon. The Woolgatherer. By William Mastrosimone. Presented by Repertory Actors Workshop (ReAct) at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S. In repertory through Nov. 23. Tickets $6-$12, $10-$20 for both shows; $1 off admission with food bank donation at box office; 206-364-3283.

© 1997 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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