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by Rosemary Frisino Toohey

(Cornered was staged as part of a double-bill along with Get Stuffed by Mark Scharf at The Spotlighters Theater. This page includes only those parts of the review focusing on Cornered.)

Despite themes, new plays animate festival
Mike Giuliano
Patuxent Papers
August 10, 2005
Copyright 2005

The two, one-act plays at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre are vastly different in subject matter and tone, but they have in common principal characters who are largely immobile.

The wife in Rosemary Frisino Toohey's somber drama "Cornered" is increasingly impaired by multiple sclerosis, and one of the characters in Mark Scharf's surreal comedy "Get Stuffed" is a talking but otherwise mostly unmoving teddy bear.

Both playwrights are veterans of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and so audiences for their entries in this summer's festival can be assured that the scripts have a certain level of professionalism. By the same token, these are new scripts, and theater-goers may find themselves making mental checklists of what works and what doesn't.

Toohey's domestic drama is the more satisfying of the two plays. Stephen and Laura seem to have a happy marriage, but her medical diagnosis understandably puts pressure on their relationship. "Cornered" is broken up into six short scenes documenting their marriage over a 12-year period. Some of the scenes are comprised of monologues and others are more dialogue-oriented.

The writing itself is psychologically probing and often beautifully phrased, but the play's overall structure seems like it could use a bit of creative tinkering. Some of the scenes are so brief that they go by in a blur, with the passage of time made clearer in the playbill than in the scenes themselves. Still, this is a moving play, thanks to the playwright's sensitive attention to her marital and medical themes.

Also making the production successful is Susan S. Porter's fiercely unsentimental performance as Laura. Just as Laura is a literary scholar and athlete who is attuned to the ironic aspects of her condition, Porter gives dry line readings that drip with irony.

Porter also does a fine job conveying the bitterness of a middle-aged woman who finds herself confined to a wheelchair. As Laura's husband, Stephen, Mark Squirek is able to put across the spouse's feelings of frustration and depression; however, the actor's low-key approach occasionally has him speaking in a dull monotone.

If the philosophically bleak "Cornered" astutely depicts a couple trying to adjust to a marriage-challenging medical condition, Mark Scharf's "Get Stuffed" is an infinitely lighter look at a domestic relationship.......

"Cornered" and "Get Stuffed" run through Aug. 27 at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, at 817 St. Paul Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12, $10 for senior citizens and students. Call 410-752-1225 or go online to www.spotlighters.org.

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