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Midweek Treat

Power Plays. At Victoria Hall Theater, Thursday, December
14.

Reviewed by Elena Gray-Blanc

Power Plays, the fifth installment in Victoria Hall Theater’s
Theatrical Treats series, was all about sex — subtly and with
unexpected depth in the first of Elaine May’s one-acts, The Way of
All Fish, and perhaps too blatantly in the farce In and Out of the
Light.

The Way of All Fish follows two women through an evening of
accidental companionship. Ms. Asquith (Leslie Gangl Howe), an
executive, makes an uncharacteristic attempt to have a personal
conversation with her secretary, Miss Riverton (Deborah Helm), and
discovers, to her shock, that her timid subordinate aspires to find
everlasting fame by murdering a celebrity. Miss Riverton has
finally given up on killing an A-lister, however, and intends to be
satisfied with someone merely wealthy and influential. The rich and
well-connected Ms. Asquith, in fear for her life, temporarily
becomes subject to Miss Riverton’s whims, reversing their
dynamic.

The speech in which Miss Riverton describes her fantasy of being
the next John Wilkes Booth was a highlight, and could stand alone
as a monologue. Katie Laris’s direction had Helm pushing closer and
closer to Howe, dominating her personal space as she invaded her
psychological territory. Laris also allowed Helm and Howe to play
up the sexual tension inherent in their characters’ relationship,
an effect that was enhanced by Ms. Asquith’s more traditionally
masculine, power-oriented outlook. Although by the end of the play
Ms. Asquith reclaims her dominant status, there are enough twists
and turns to make the outcome suspenseful.

Unfortunately, such shifting dynamics were mainly absent from In
and Out of the Light, the story of a dentist (Jerry Oshinsky)
attempting to make it with his hygienist (Destiny Hitchcock), a
blowsy ex-porn actress. Although In and Out was peppered with the
same Wildean one-liners as Fish, it was something of a one-note
joke. The most amusing gag was a panicked dental patient (Tiffany
Story) who narrated her stress level, from one to 10, into a
handheld voice recorder. At one point, she reached 30 on her scale
of one to 10. Although this performance didn’t hit quite that high
on my scale, it certainly made me want to see Victoria Hall’s next
offering, coming up in January.

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