Peggy Sue Dunigan

Third and Oak

By - Jan 23rd, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Peggy Sue Dunigan

ThirdandOak

Third and Oak is the third installment of Dramatists Theatre’s 2006-2007 season that is revisiting the work of Marsha Norman. Norman, who was most recently nominated for a 2006 Tony Award after comprising the libretto for The Color Purple, once again observes, as she puts it, “people you wouldn’t even notice in life.”

In this two-act play, one set in a laundromat, another in a pool hall, both locations are placed at the corner of Third and Oak. At 3 in the morning, Alberta Johnson, an older woman seeking silence, and DeeDee Johnson, a young newly married woman seeking company, clash as they “suds their duds,” both literally and metaphorically as they wash and talk about the complexities in their marriages. Marilyn White as Alberta is quietly stilted as a grieving wife, while Libby Amato gives DeeDee a hurried, uncontrolled appeal. Although sometimes Amato’s speech is rushed, which gives the audience little time to understand what she is trying to tell Alberta.

Norman gives the second act, which revolves around a pool table, weightier dialogue, with more emotion shot with lines of humor. Tony Mozli-Warren, as the father like figure of Willie, and Muhammad Mahdi, as Shooter, relate as if they truly are family. Here Shooter, a late night DJ, tries to settle his score in life as he and Willie discuss his relationships to the hard drinking trio his late father, Willie, and another friend, George, created. The relationship is complicated by the fact Shooter has married Sondra, George’s daughter, and there is no child to carry on the family name. Shooter, who dropped off his laundry before visiting Willie, has also invited DeeDee to join him in the pool hall, as these two characters overlap the two acts.

The black box theatre on the fourth floor of the Marion Center, appropriately sparse for both settings, is long and narrow. However, occasionally the dialogue is difficult to hear when the actor’s backs are turned, or above the breaking of the cue balls. But as Shooter says every late evening as he signs off the radio and heads to Willie’s for pool, “it’s 3 in the morning when it’s time to rock your daddy to dreams of delight.” And unknown, this may be exactly the right time to discover the surprises in your dreams, your life and someone to share them with, whether searching for them or not. This play is an interesting addition to this season of Norman’s work, which, as she explains, continues to explore “people having the nerve to go on.” Fortunately small theater companies take these opportunities. VS

Third and Oak runs through January 27at Dramtists Theatre on the fourth floor of the Marion Center, 3211 South Lake Drive, St. Francis. Ticket information at: www.dramtiststheatre.com.

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