Many theatergoers associate a monologue on stage as something serious and static: Hamlet’s soliloquy or “Spoon River Anthology.” We expect to see one actor speaking at length to the audience, bathed in a spotlight while the others actors stand by silently. Not at Mount St. Joseph.
Shoestring Theater’s production of “The Monologue Show” is a lively show in which 10 actors perform 32 monologues, perched on brightly painted boxes, their T-shirts and the curtain behind them in matching colors. The multiple monologues taken on by each actor allow their characters to develop as they interact with each other and their director, Jessica Audette, seated in the audience.
The actors are students in a drama class ordered to deliver a monologue, endure a pop quiz (in a drama class?) and fend off criticism. A Jackson Pollock-style painted platform downstage center serves as the focal point as the actors take their turns, and they use that space well.
The monologues are dynamic, often funny, and accompanied by significant movements and gestures. Anna Boro announces she wants to be a brain surgeon, but needs to consult her notes to remember what she wants to say while brandishing a Styrofoam head. Savannah Perry is very dynamic in her pieces, using the platform space very well and punctuating key phrases of her speeches with pizzazz. Devon Bathalon has a great poker face when he begins one monologue with “Zoos are boring” and another about his name “Barney.” Ethan Courcelle manages to flirt with every female on stage and insults them all about their yoga pants. Mary Babb does two funny pieces, one about Taylor Swift helping her rob a bank and another about giving J.K. Rowling a plot for a new Harry Potter book. Babb’s rendition of the voices of Hagrid, Harry and Voldemort are hilarious.
Many of the actors also leave the platform to circle among their fellow actors, as when Tori Tracy accosts each actor who might have stolen her purse, or when her sister, Ellie Tracy, takes it personally when the battery of her cellphone runs out and later leaves the stage entirely to walk right into the audience as she lectures them about bad parenting.
This is a play about monologues that breaks that convention by the interaction between the actors and the director, the creative use of movement on and off the stage and great use of color. Kudos to senior Kristen Elliott in the lighting booth who manages to reproduce each of the 10 distinctive colors on the cyclorama curtain upstage to frame each actor’s performance. The standard red blue and green cyc lights were expertly mixed to create shades of pink, purple, yellow and orange.
Though this is a young cast with five freshmen, they are an experienced group. Freshman Ethan Courcelle will soon appear as the Nutcracker at the Paramount next month, and senior Mary Babb has already sung there with Rusty DeWeese last week.
This hour-long show will surely give audiences a new way to experience and enjoy monologues. Performances are set for at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, at MSJ. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.