THEATER REVIEWS : Evenings of One-Acts Offer Tight Drama : Plaza Players and Santa Paula Theater Center present a wide-ranging selection, including three works by Britain’s Harold Pinter.


A one-act play tells its story in a hurry; there is little time for subplots and nuances of character. As they’re generally presented these days, one-acts are exercises for actors and directors, ways to show their stuff without expending the time or money to mount a full-length play. Occasionally, they’re more than that.

The Plaza Players, who have radically revamped their announced 1995 season, are beginning with a program of one-acts that runs two weekends only, ending this Saturday night. Rather drably (if accurately) titled, “An Evening of One-Acts,” the program is part of a plan by the Players’ board--and artistic director Michael Maynez--to bring new blood to the veteran company.

Meanwhile, the Santa Paula Theater Center is presenting three one-acts by the highly influential British playwright Harold Pinter.

The Plaza Players’ show consists of four plays developed by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky. They are Murphy Guyer’s “The Interrogation,” Robert Spera’s “The Field,” Neal Bell’s “Out the Window” and Athol Fugard’s “The Drummer,” plus Diana Amsterdam’s provocatively titled “One Naked Woman and a Fully-Clothed Man.” Most of those involved are alumni of Ventura College’s theater department.


All of the plays, directed by Doreen Lacy and Jill Goforth, are brief: The whole evening lasts less than an hour and a half, including intermission. And the plays are, for the most part, written for young adults to perform. There’s enough sex involved that parents should leave the kiddies at home.

The most interesting, perhaps, is “The Drummer,” by South African playwright Fugard, whose best-known full-length plays include “The Blood Knot” and “Master Harold . . . and the Boys.”

Written in 1980, Fugard’s script is a paragraph long; the entire presentation is in pantomime. A homeless man (Travis Greer) ransacks a pile of trash cans looking for something he can use. He discovers a drumstick, then another. Tentatively hitting them against various trash cans and boxes, he discovers the artist in himself.

“One Naked Woman and a Fully-Clothed Man” features Lacy and Todd Garrett as a couple who have been married long enough that they’re taking each other a bit for granted. The title is metaphorical: As they’re seated in a theater, watching an Italian movie, we hear Janet’s thoughts (“Robert kisses me like that . . . Robert used to kiss me like that”) while her husband stares at the screen, emotionless. The film ends, and the two launch into a discussion that should be the basis for some lively conversation between couples in the audience on their way home.


“The Interrogation” features Travis Greer and Jasmine Walea as a man and woman who meet at a restaurant table, while “The Field” features Greg Small and Rob Sanchez as soldiers trying to summon up courage to finesse their way out of a mine field.

“Out the Window” is the evening’s oddest play, beginning as it does with a man (Todd Garrett) in a wheelchair, on top of a table in an unfamiliar room. A woman (Sarah Meaney) enters, and things become only slightly more clear.


Three of the sharpest works of Harold Pinter have been gathered for production in Santa Paula, and they’re much more than exercises for actors and directors.


“The Lover” and “The Dumbwaiter” are medium-length one-acts, preceded by “Trouble in the Works,” which is more of a comedy sketch that would fit nicely into the repertoire of Beyond the Fringe or Monty Python.

“The Dumbwaiter” finds two men waiting, impatiently, in an anonymous hotel room in what turns out to be Birmingham, England. Waiting for a telephone call, they pass the time by arguing and fretting over violence reported in the daily newspaper.

As the play progresses, the audience discovers the men’s sinister mission, and the men discover that they’re not alone--mysterious notes are being passed to them through a dumbwaiter in the wall.

“The Lover” is less cryptic than “The Dumbwaiter,” but every bit as unusual in its own way. A very proper English couple (he’s an accountant) have reached an understanding, it seems, whereby Sarah’s lover is allowed to drop by the house on afternoons, while John is at the office. John, in the meantime, is evidently seeing a prostitute. Through all this the couple is devoted to one another.


Gary Best directs “The Dumbwaiter,” which stars Tom Mueller and Basil Augustine, and “Trouble in the Works,” starring Mueller and Thomas D. Flores.

Jeff G. Rack and Linda Livingston are the couple in “The Lover,” with a brief appearance by Flores; the play is directed by Toni Beery.


“An Evening of One-Acts.”


* WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; ends Saturday.

* WHERE: Plaza Players Theater, 34 N. Palm St. (in the Livery Arts Center), Ventura.

* COST: $10 general admission; $8 students and seniors. Not recommended for children.

* CALL: For reservations or further information, 643-9460.


“The Dumbwaiter,” “The Lover” “Trouble in the Works.”

* WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through Feb. 4.

* WHERE: Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula.

* COST: General admission $10; students and seniors $7.50; special student rate $6 for all Sunday performances. Not recommended for children.


* CALL: For reservations or further information, 525-4645.