The Know Theatre Tribe has taken a two-week vacation from its Gabriel's Corner home and is presenting two one-act plays in the Studio Theatre at Xavier University.
Under the collective title Vague Promises, Know's productions of Wil Calhoun's Affections of an Alley Cat and Lee Blessing's Eleemosynary showcase five solid performances nicely guided by director Christine DeFrancesco into an evening well worth seeing.
Alley Cat tells the bittersweet story (with a couple of surprises) of two tortured souls, Eddie (Matthew A. Pyle) and Denise (Ghillian Porter). Eddie wants intimacy - and even love, but Denise is unable and unwilling to cross that line.
The script is a bit heavy-handed in the symbolism between these struggling characters and Denise's missing alley cat. But Calhoun's storytelling and gift for brutally tough yet poetic dialogue are dead on.
Pyle and Porter work beautifully together, displaying all the rage, hurt and emptiness that lurk inside two of society's losers who don't know how to love. They are always focused and interesting to watch.
Eleemosynary is the story of three generations of women - a grandmother, mother, and daughter, and how their lives have shaped each other for both ill and good.
Blessing's play shifts around in time and point of view as we discover how wildly eccentric Dorthea (a wonderful Sue Breving), rational and brilliant Artie (equally terrific Jennifer Dalton) and smart and precocious Echo (young but not overmatched Andrea Backscheider) each became a woman who can't escape the other women in her family.
Again, the ensemble work among the the cast is effective, as all three performances complement one another.
From Dorthea's tale of how she consciously chose eccentricity, to Artie's sad attempts to connect to her daughter, to Echo's compulsive victory in the national spelling bee (with the word "eleemosynary," which means charitable) the actors give us three compelling lives interwoven with moments of pain, regret and occasional joy.
DeFrancesco does fine work with both of these plays, keeping the stories focused and allowing each moment to build and hold the stage.
With Vague Promises and past Know productions, she is quickly developing into one of this area's better young directors.
Friday night's nearly sold-out house was a good indication of the following Know is starting to find, even at a different venue.
Vague Promises is a not-so-vague promise of the artistic potential that Know is starting to show on the local theater scene by attracting the right local artists.
Vague Promises, Know Theatre Tribe, through Saturday, XU's Gallagher Student Center, 300-5669.
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