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.adoberoset­he­

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

Margot Avery in The Por­ta­ble Dorothy Parker

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