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St. Louis by Richard Green

Cul-de-Sac
Midnight Productions

Also see Sarah's review of Doubt

It seems fitting to start off with a bit of gossip, since that's the stock-in-trade of Daniel MacIvor's one-man script, so here it goes: Less than a mile away from Cul-de-Sac's venue, Doubt just had its own rather surprising St. Louis debut when Tony-winner Cherry Jones couldn't make it, owing to swollen vocal chords. By all accounts, local actress Darrie Lawrence filled-in beautifully.

The fact that you could find an actress of confidence and stature in the Midwest to step into what has become Ms. Jones' star-vehicle at the intimidating Fox Theatre may seem surprising. But, as my companion at Cul-de-Sac observed, there are a lot of great actors out there just waiting for their chance. In Daniel MacIvor's Cul-de-Sac Joe Hanrahan clearly falls into this category, playing ten or more roles with distinction, introspection and flair.

The play has a foreboding film noir quality, even as the characters' common embarrassments regularly tickle us in odd places. Mr. Hanrahan's main character is Leonard, a lonely but kind-hearted gay man who recounts the events leading up to his own murder on a dead-end street. Up till then, he was best known in neighborhood affairs as a do-gooder, only to be repaid for his efforts by a neighbor who breaks up his long-term relationship.

Sarah Whitney directs Mr. Hanrahan, and the results are remarkable: each character, from a disturbingly modern 13-year-old girl to a retired veterinarian, quickly becomes recognizable, even before they open their mouths. And Mr. MacIvor's script leaves tantalizing mysteries lying about as he draws closer and closer to the exact moment of murder. But best of all is how well the playwright's own sense of humor, and the actor's, have meshed together.

Mr. Hanrahan also does a fine job showing how rumors and gossip get twisted into something vaguely ghoulish, in a clever indictment of suburban isolation. This isolation takes over until the loneliest are destroyed. Everything, from Leonard's adopted pronunciation of "Puerto Vallarto" to the demise of his hedge (after his own demise), becomes a subject for gimlet-eyed speculation. Yet all of this is accomplished without the usual canned attitudes: Mr. Hanrahan keeps his characters as well-tended as blades of zoysia grass, albeit with a good deal more originality and spontaneity.

Cul-de-Sac features a highly evocative sound design and original music by Todd Lauterbach. Through March 10, 2007 at the Technisonic Studio, 500 South Ewing. For information call (314) 487-5305 or visit them on-line at www.midnightcompany.com.

Cul-de-Sac
Written by Daniel MacIvor Directed by Sarah Whitney

Cast: Joe Hanrahan

Crew: Sound design and original music: Todd Lauterbach; Assistant to the Sound Designer: Robert Steel; Sound Operator: Kareem Deanes; Lighting Design: Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb; Stage Manager: Linda Menard Costume Design: Rebecca Saul;

Additional support from Technisonic Studios, The Arbor Group, New World Post-Production, Matt Mauger, Joe Rogg and Millie Garvey.


-- Richard T. Green

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