Posted on: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Plays intertwine in a labyrinthine style

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

M A Richard directs the current production in the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre. From the start, we know we're in for something visually interesting.

'Fair Rosamund and Her Murderer/Necropolis'
  • 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Earle Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawai'i-Manoa
  • $8, $7, $3
  • 956-7655
Staging is in the round, with a large bed filling the center area. We anticipate becoming part of the action.

Two scenes into the dialogue, with characters circling around and among and above the audience and leaping between time and place almost in mid-sentence, we find ourselves on our own in a strange place. There is no map; we have to figure things out for ourselves. The evening could be called "Labyrinth."

Instead, the two short plays by Don Nigro are "Fair Rosamund and Her Murderer" and "Necropolis." Richard has sandwiched them together with interlocking scenes and a male character for a linchpin. The labyrinth image is very strong in both.

In "Fair Rosamund," Eunsook Kim plays the medieval mistress of King Henry II, and Jesse Ross is the man hired by jealous Queen Eleanor to murder her. He finds her in a rose bower in the center of a fortress-maze, but instead of mayhem they make love.

Clockwise from top left: Eunsook Kim as Rosamund, Jesse Ross as the Murderer/Post and Leanne Baumung as Anna.

Photo by M A Richard

In "Necropolis," Ross plays a journalist in an eastern European war zone having a one-night stand with a woman (Leanne Baumung) who reveals herself to be a sniper.

As the medieval couple delight in each other, escape the labyrinth, then return to it for safety, the contemporary lovers engage in a probing duel — "we had intercourse, we are not lovers."

Richard keeps the action clear and the intermingled scenes separate but has mixed success in making them inform each other. There are definite parallels. The male characters are ostensibly the pursuers, but each female turns the tables in her own way.

The playwright lays down much of the dialogue, especially in "Necropolis," in a series of annoying questions.

"What do you want to know?"

"What do you want to tell me?"

"Why, what is the point?"

"What was the point to begin with?"

Such word gaming adds little depth and establishes the characters as frightened and shallow, talking at conversations merely to keep them going. It may be the playwright's intent, but it raises the question whether each story line has enough going to independently support itself.

Yet together, the dialogue manages to hold us for an hour. Told simultaneously, the stories have greater textual interest than standing alone, but neither reaches a clear conclusion.

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