Solo Turns

Four Women masquerades as a play. Playwright Cheever Tyler has assembled four unrelated monologues and ineffectually linked them together under the broad themes of love, loss, and destiny. But the monologues' only true connection is that they are told from the perspective of women. Under Christopher Carter Sanderson's pedestrian direction, the monologues meander and grow tiresome, failing to reach a point and often getting lost within Tyler's unpolished writing. The evening begins with "Dixie Glitter," a convoluted, mildly amusing piece about an uneducated trailer-trash yokel (a favorite type of woman in Tyler's monologues) who finds herself playing host to the spirit of Carry Nation.

Who? Exactly. Carry Nation was a quasi-famous prohibitionist during the early part of the 20th century. Her claim to fame was that she would take a hatchet and smash bars to pieces. The monologue spends a lot of time explaining this, as do the program notes. One day Dixie, a would-be psychic, has Nation's spirit passed on to her by another crazy local. The trouble is that Dixie is a good-time girl who loves her drinking as much as she loves her men.

Suffice it to say, she and Carry are quite the odd couple, and hilarity ensues…or is meant to ensue. Robin Benson throws herself into the role but can't overcome the flawed writing and lame jokes. After almost half an hour, even she appears to want the piece to end.

In the second monologue, "Albany Drive Thru Pawn Shop," a Southern belle named Celeste finds herself trapped in the past with her fragile sanity teetering on the brink. She is unable to recover from a soured love affair, and her problems are further compounded by the hardships of the Depression, which force her to sell off her family's beloved belongings to make ends meet. The monologue seemingly takes place over decades, but the time line is annoyingly unclear, and the resolution is a train wreck of psychobabble. As Celeste, Ninon Rogers is all demure Southern accent and genteel affectations, but little else.

The most troubling piece of the evening is "Inventory," featuring Charlotte, a physics professor struggling with the deaths of her husband and son. The monologue is an unfocused debate on the roles of science and religion, as Charlotte tries to reconcile her profession with her faith. Speaking to an unseen therapist, she calmly rails at the gods for taking her family while calling upon her scientific background to provide answers. Debbie Stanislaus does very little with the piece, aimlessly circling the stage and occasionally raising her voice beyond a calm whisper to show anger or confusion.

The show concludes with "Trip to New Jersey," an unfunny and borderline racist monologue about another trailer-trash heroine, Trumpet Vine, on the verge of marrying a much older Middle-Eastern man. Trumpet waxes philosophical about love and, more important, money as she explains why she is marrying her rich sugar daddy. Seduced by jewelry and his endless wealth, Trumpet decides life in a burka can't be all that bad.

Playwright Tyler makes sweeping generalizations about the Middle East, conceiving Trumpet's beau as a stereotypical "evil doer" complete with henchmen, oil fields, and a harem of beauties waiting at his beck and call. Kelly Tuohy revels in Trumpet's trashiness, almost making the audience forget how thin her monologue is. Ultimately, though, Tuohy succumbs to bug eyes and "golly gee whiz" deliveries.

Sanderson provides little direction for his actresses, most of whom wander helplessly about the stage wearing out the same 5-by-5 patch of space. Although hindered by Tyler's amateurish writing, the director fails to provide a beginning, middle, and end for each monologue, leaving his actresses stranded and stuck.

Four Women suffers from many problems, but its biggest obstacle is the script itself. Stale situations, underdeveloped characters, and empty dialogue prove too difficult to overcome and too uninteresting to care about.

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