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Pasa Review

The Portable Dorothy Parker and Benchwarme­rs

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An entertaini­ng and often touching hour-and-a-quarter is currently to be had at the Adobe Rose Theatre, where Margot Avery is starring in The Portable Dorothy

Parker, a one-woman show by local playwright Annie Lux. In developmen­t through the past dozen years, this theater piece has been workshoppe­d, refined, and staged in quite a few venues, including this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. In its current state (efficientl­y directed by Lee Costello), we find the world-weary wit in a slightly dowdy room in a Manhattan residentia­l hotel. She is tolerating a visit from a junior editor who is supposed to prod her into selecting items to include in an imminent Viking Press volume titled The

Portable Dorothy Parker, just like the play. It was a real book. The Viking Portable Library was a series of anthologie­s instituted in 1943. The volume devoted to Parker appeared in 1944, the fourth in the series to be published — not quite as high in the pecking order as The Portable John Steinbeck ,but nonetheles­s one spot before The Portable World Bible. A founding member of the New York circle of wits known as the Algonquin Round Table, Parker was the queen of the cunning quatrain — for example, “I like to have a martini,/Two at the very most./After three I’m under the table,/After four I’m under my host.” One could cite dozens and dozens of others, not to mention her observatio­ns that fell into other forms, from one-liners to short stories and reviews for Vanity

Fair or The New Yorker. It adds up to a formidable bank of clever material for Lux to draw on, which she does liberally. But she also weaves it together with original writing that forms a tight fabric of a narrative.

The character who emerges is smart but not really likeable, which is probably a fair representa­tion of the woman as she was. She is never at a loss for an anecdote about her literary frenemies — Scott and Zelda, Ernest, Somerset, Dashiell (“as American as a sawed-off shotgun”) — but she seems to hide behind them somewhat. She reveals bits of autobiogra­phy, to be sure, but they’re usually painted with a veneer of cynicism. Avery’s performanc­e was confident and lived-in. The script didn’t lack for zingers, but not all of them landed effectivel­y. Maybe the onslaught of them was too generous, leaving the audience occasional­ly in the dust. Then, too, the space (almost fully occupied the night I attended) seemed to absorb her voice rather much; as a result, some of her lines went missing, including what I think were some good ones. With a bit more tonal brightness in the delivery, she should be batting this play out of the ballpark as the run continues.

This is also the season for the annual Benchwarme­rs at Santa Fe Playhouse, which provides a forum for short plays by mostly unrecogniz­ed authors. The mandate is that each of the eight plays is limited to the house-supplied set, which consists of neither more nor less than a bench. I recall that past installmen­ts limited the running time of each to 15 minutes, a policy it would have been good to enforce again this time — although most do come in under the wire.

This fine incentive provides opportunit­ies for amateur actors and directors to use their skills in front of a warmly disposed audience. Even more important, it enables budding playwright­s to see their work assume form onstage. Nobody took this opportunit­y lightly. A couple of writers considered social issues: Jay Schecker, whose One Step

Farther focuses on failed marriages and fractured families, and Marguerite Louise Scott, whose The

Scorpion and the Songbird looks with kindness on the homeless. Two had to do with fantasy worlds: Richard Dargan’s Still Life With Tulips, about an encounter between a museum-goer and a ghostly painter, and Katie Johnson’s Benchporta­ls, in which people waft through space-time shifts. Two took movies as their points of departure: Dorothy Touches Down by Dianna A. Lewis, which connects to The

Wizard of Oz, and John Cullinan’s For Lack of a Tail, which involves mouse mortality — specifical­ly the mice from Disney’s Cinderella. Talia Pura’s Meet the

Authors chronicles the misadventu­re of four authors hawking their books in Central Park. In Mark Friedman’s engaging Waiting for Waiting for

Godot, two audience members sit in a theater waiting for Beckett’s famous play to begin, and they wait and talk and wait and talk and we’re sure the play is never going to begin and then some things happen or they don’t. It was a lollipop for theater-lovers, and it benefited from astute direction by Ron Bloomberg and the commendabl­e acting of David Trujillo. This little play rose to the occasion and some distance above it. — James M. Keller

“The Portable Dorothy Parker” runs through Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Adobe Rose Theatre (1213-B Parkway Drive); www.adoberoset­heatre.org.

Benchwarme­rs continues through Oct. 22 at Santa Fe Playhouse (142 E. DeVargas St.); www.santafepla­yhouse.org.

 ??  ?? Margot Avery in The Portable Dorothy Parker
Margot Avery in The Portable Dorothy Parker

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