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St. Louis by Richard Green

A Perfect Ganesh
West End Players Guild

A Perfect Ganesh
Jane Abling, Steve Callahan, Matt Hanify, Renee Sevier-Monsey
Ganesh (or, Ganesha, the Hindu god of overcoming obstacles) has his work cut out for him when two American women journey through India in the early 1990s. It's easy to imagine a comical Lucy and Ethel at the outset, touring the world's largest democracy without Ricky and Fred. Only here, it seems that Ethel has to deal with her own external prickliness, while Lucy must get to the bottom of something much uglier. And there's a lot more to it than that.

Terrence McNally's script also combines the horrors of overpopulation in one country with the terrors of hate in our own, relieved by good, steady doses of culture-clash comedy, as shaped by director Sean Ruprecht-Belt. Renee Sevier-Monsey is the unstoppable Lucy (or, Katharine, in this case) to Jane Abling's Ethel (Margaret, actually), and both women prove themselves more than equal to the demands of both comedy and tragedy. Steve Callahan is the impish, inscrutable Hindu god with the fascinating elephant's head (by artist Marjorie Williamson), and he and Matt Hanify play a multitude of husbands and guides and lepers and friends. And, thanks to these two "Everymen," it turns out that you really can cover an amazing amount of territory.

Ms. Sevier-Monsey covers some fairly interplanetary distances herself: diddling with new-age self hypnosis, oblivious to the rocky road of international tourism, to a horrific purging involving the murder of her son. You won't come out of this with any interesting new stamps on your passport, but thanks to her performance, and Mr. McNally's script, your head will still be spinning like a globe in the library the next morning.

I believe I've only met Ms. Sevier-Monsey once in my life, years ago, and the picture of that brief meeting has developed in the strangest way in my mind: as if I had walked up to the door of a huge mansion, and a woman who seemed even smaller than she really is came almost woefully to the door, rather in the manner of a servant. As I look back on it now, it was intimidating and unnerving. I'm sure she doesn't really carry around a huge, invisible mansion on her back, but I still carry that image in my mind. Ms. Abling I have known longer, and after a recent real-life divorce she is like that lady in The Importance of Being Earnest whose "hair has gone positively gold from grief." As a result, she seems thinner and freer than ever. In short, the two are the perfect travelling companions. One travels light; the other, not so much: she contains many rooms yet to be explored.

Mr. Callahan, as Ganesha (and in various other roles) is endlessly delightful, until his nightmarish appearance in another amazing mask, as a horrible leper. He's also especially funny as a chambermaid in one of the hotels. Mr. Hanify is just about one of each of every kind of fellow you've ever met, from disinterested husband to stroppy man-servant, to defiant victim of a hate crime (if you've ever met anyone like that). The four actors, on a terraced white stage, have a very large canvas to paint upon, and paint, paint, paint they do. Strangely, in spite of (or because of) all that work, the final 30 minutes float by dreamily on the clouds.

Through November 23, 2008 at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union (about a block north of Delmar). For information call (314) 367-0025, or visit them online at www.westendplayers.org.

Cast
Genesha: Steve Callahan
The Man: Matt Hanify
Margaret Civil: Jane Abling
Katharine Brynne: Renee Sevier-Monsey

Crew
Director: Sean Ruprecht-Belt
Stage Manager: Carrie Phinney
Set and light design: Nik Uhlmansiek
Sound Design: Robin Weatherall
Costumes: Russell J. Bettlach
Set Decoration and Props: Christine McGregor
Choreography: Asha Prem
Masks: Marjorie Williamson
Light Board: Amanda Stanfill
Sound Board: Dan Higgins
Crew: Sarah Boslaugh, Kate Makela
Graphic Design: Marjorie Williamson
Webmaster: Sherry McCowan
House Manager: Dorothy Davis
Box Office: Eleanor Mullin

Photo by John Lamb


-- Richard T. Green

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