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Cornered
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.)

J. Wynn Rousuck
August 11, 2005
The Baltimore Sun
Copyright 2005

Playwright Rosemary Frisino Toohey pulls off a...challenging feat in the Spotlighters' second one-act, Cornered. To show the impact of a debilitating disease on a marriage, Toohey builds her script around a multiple sclerosis patient who is a former fencer.

The playwright then gives the character - a wife and mother named Laura (Porter) - a series of monologues in which, with her health and vigor restored, she demonstrates and explains her love of the sport.

Fencing is a smart choice, not only because of the physical agility it requires, but also because, as the disease progresses, Laura and her husband Stephen (Squirek) become verbal duelists, with Laura constantly putting Stephen on the defensive.

Porter's Laura is bitter and sarcastic, while Squirek's Stephen is almost too long-suffering to be true. He tells Laura they're in this together; she insists that's impossible. Far from letting him feel her pain, Laura pushes him away.

Several scenes repeat the pattern of Stephen coming home, opening the mail and starting supper, but the chronology of the scenes jumps around, as if we are reliving Laura's out-of-sequence memories.

What's most intriguing about Cornered is the way it defies preconceptions. First, Toohey paints Laura as an unsympathetic character. Then she turns the tables by suggesting that Laura's behavior is rooted in her love for her husband - love so deep, she'll try almost anything to force him to get on with his life.

Squirek and Porter give intense performances, and in this case, even though Porter spends most of the play in a wheelchair, director Bursi keeps the movement fluid enough to ensure good sightlines all around.

Laura says her children could never understand her point of view. That's partly what the play is about - that no one who isn't sitting in her chair ever can. It's also about the notion that when all other sources of passion are denied, verbal skirmishes may become a sign of affection - especially for two highly articulate people like these.

Mostly, though, Cornered is about the fact that love, like life, can thrust and parry in unexpected directions. And victory isn't always a joyous affair


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