4 N 1
Butterfly Productions, 493-4203
Through August 25
Monologues can be horrible bits of tripe, or they can be golden gems of iridescence, but if their placement in the play as a whole is awkward they're doomed. A monologue's purpose is to reveal a side of the character that is so complex, it can be only revealed by way of an extended speech. In real life, however, nobody can launch into extended speech without seeming awkward. Plays deviate from real life, but even then, the world that the play creates for itself usually doesn't feature characters who go around spouting tirades and soliloquies.
The trick is to slip the monologue in there without calling attention to it. If attention is called to it, then attention is also called to its function--to convey new information. When the function of a thing becomes more noticeable than the results of that function, then the thing immediately becomes awkward (you can do an experiment in your own home that demonstrates this phenomenon: Go in the bathroom and stare at your nose for two straight minutes. I guarantee that what once seemed to be a very natural and fluid part of your face will suddenly start to look weird and protrusive).
The four one-acts that make up Butterfly's 4 N 1 suffer from this problem across the board. Example A: the opening segment, Karin Magaldi-Unger's Air. It portrays an aging woman, Mary (Lia Kohles), who is forced to walk around strapped to an air tank and imagines spiders to be life-sized. Add in her relationship with her frustrated, but devoted son, as well as her dream-like conversations with the spider, and you have something oddly poignant. The play's world breaks from reality, yes, but still it establishes a natural, if bizarre, flow of dialogue. Thus, when Mary suddenly steps forward and orates to the audience about how miserable her life is, it feels out of place. For one thing, we can already see how miserable her life is--she's on an air machine and she talks to spiders, after all, so we don't need it crammed down our throats. Unger might as well just have had Mary say, "Here's where the playwright wants me to talk to you about myself." Why not focus more on the relationship between Mary and her son (which was severely neglected) through a conversation that could have been both revealing and touching?
The evil, awkward monologues spread throughout the evening like a virus. Carolyn Holzman's Nose, about a flamboyant gentleman who loses his nose, is hilarious thanks to stellar performances by Randy Brown and Quince Morcon, but it too is almost sabotaged by boring monologues helicoptered in, between funny scenes by a pointless character called the "professor."
Rebecca Lane's Kola N Me is a morbidly sexual, utterly bizarre confessional from a transsexual, made even more strange by the fact that Lane doesn't have her lines memorized, and reads from her script the whole time. The monologue has great potential, but suffers from Lane's stilted movements and pauses as a result of having to look down at her pages constantly.
The final play, To Be Had, saves itself from awkward monologue action by being so surreal that anything goes. I think the characters were somebody's brain cells discussing their goals for the week--but it's the kind of piece that will mean something different to each viewer. All four plays are provocative, and the evening could have been something memorable. Instead, the incompleteness of it all makes it just another example for aspiring playwrights of how not to write a play.