Wild truck-driving guru highlights 'Fourplay'

Mike Dunham
Photo courtesy of Anchorage Community Theatre / Three Wise Moose Productions

If you only need one reason to fork over $10 to see the latest incarnation of "Fourplay," look no further than Kevin Bennett's wild portrayal of a whacked-out truck driver in "Six Dead Bodies Duct-Taped to a Merry-Go-Round."

The short play by Lindsay Marianna Walker and Dawson Moore is one of four local pieces that make up the show. The individual scripts owe their origins to the short-and-fast play events like the Anchorage Overnighters and Don't Blink, which Moore, who also directs the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, is credited for bringing to Alaska over the past several years.

Shorter than many one-acts and palpably developed from readers' theater, they lean heavily on words and notably lack action; all would work fine as radio plays. Nonetheless, in their quest to expose a little more of the human condition than simply humorous foibles the one-acts constitute writing that goes beyond mere skits.

And they're darned funny. In "A Wee Rembrandt" by Schatzie Schaefers, David Haynes channels Jackie Gleason as a frustrated art museum guard, trussed up along with his fellow guard, played by Anthony Lounsbury, following a robbery. They exchange accusations, discussions of female body parts and -- ultimately -- poignant reflections on what it is about great art that makes people love it. They do the whole scene duct-taped to poles.

Duct-tape also plays a role -- off-stage -- in the Walker and Moore offering. Eric Holzschuh is a G.I. returning from Afghanistan, stranded on the road, unable to contact his wife, seething with anxiety. He's picked up by Bennett who proposes a stupendously stupid idea for making money with a video camera that he and his quadriplegic wife bought with an eye toward making internet porn.

While the acting is good throughout all four pieces, it's Bennett who sticks in one's mind for his animated and briskly timed depiction of a possibly deranged opportunist with a dash of guru thrown in.

Steven Hunt is also a memorable character -- the only character, actually -- in his own monologue, "Thanksgiving Dinner with the Last Whore in Calhoun County," a depression era fable about a tramp (Hunt himself) and a hooker's request for cake, not pie or cobbler, on Thanksgiving.

Arlitia Jones' "The Bodice Rippers" has the most action of the four plays. Two sisters, played by Missy (one name only) and Morgan Mitchell, sit on the driveway of the condo they share with their mother and compose a romance pot-boiler featuring a pirate hero, played by sword-thrusting Joshua Kovach. The hero romances the sisters as they compose their story and indulge fantasies for a better life. In addition to a little stage motion -- including a hilarious slow-motion duel between the pirate and Missy as an English officer -- it also has the most sophisticated layering of the "Fourplay" plays. That's probably the result of its fantasy-within-a-play construction.

Anchorage Community Theatre has picked up some of the seats from the old Fireweed Theater and reconfigured its studio space so that the seats run lengthwise.

It would seem to present problems with lines of sight, though not with these plays; that remains to be seen, however. Sound-wise it was easy to hear everything, even from the far end.

While the publicity for this production cautions "Suggested for mature audiences only," there's not much here that you won't find on network television.

Sophistication might be a better criteria than age and a smart junior high student will probably enjoy the plays as much as an adult.

Find Mike Dunham online at adn.com/contact/mdunham or call 257-4332.