Dark & Stormy Productions has launched its effort to establish a theater venue for younger audiences with "Outside Providence," three one-acts by Rhode Island writer Edward Allan Baker. The troupe hopes shorter works and edgier acting, nontraditional spaces and the occasional pop-music performance will do the trick.
Give Dark & Stormy founder Sara Marsh credit. Director Matt Sciple has staged Baker's work in three distinct locations within a rough storefront space in Minneapolis. The sightlines can be tough, but the affair has a rarefied downtown feel.
Baker's work, which I had not seen, relies on the barking cant of blue-collar New England. Characters from the margins of Providence, R.I., shout their way through anger and turmoil; they trade lies intended to wound each other, to protect themselves and simply to survive.
Sciple's production is heavy on the acting and not so much on demanding more from Baker's cyclical scenarios. Actors need to do more than ride the screechy surface. Alayne Hopkins and Catherine Johnson Justice go at it as feuding sisters trying to fashion a truce in "Rosemary With Ginger." Justice's Rosemary is the more desperate and damaged sister, though Hopkins gets the better of the tête-a-tête. At key moments with the potential to heighten intensity, Sciple leaves money on the table.
Marsh and Ryan Lindberg continue in "Face Divided," about a gritty couple howling in circles about the circumstances surrounding a serious injury to their daughter. The stakes seem present and the characters more fully sketched in their hardscrabble circumstances.
In "Dolores," Marsh plays a woman whose quiet Sunday afternoon is ruined when her sister (Hopkins) rushes in from another bad episode with an abusive husband. Recrimination begets confession, absolution, then more recrimination. Baker just does not let his characters get beyond two dimensions and Sciple does not clarify transitions.
Dark & Stormy's format has value -- the variety and pace of one-acts is such a nice diversion. But the company accepts too easily Baker's seductive histrionics.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299