Suspicious Package is a collection of five short comic plays. In the monologue The Dinner Guest, a man goes to a dinner party and discovers that he is seated next to a wolverine. In The Cocktail Party, two socialites trade gossip at a 1930s cocktail party hosted by leaders of the Nazi Party. In Skill Set, two employees complain about their work in a business office of a firm that collects scalps. In The Doctor Visit, a man with a song stuck in his head visits an inept doctor in an effort to get rid of the condition. And in On the Nature and Religion of the Hibernian Peoples, or, Marty McDonagh Goes to the Bank, a small Irish village is scandalized by the murder of a leprechaun. The evening can be performed by five actors, three men and two women. Running time is approximately one hour.
Here Arts Center, New York City, 2004
Brian Parks who previously wrote Americana Absurdum has now written five searingly witty short plays that together make up Suspicious Package. The last two pieces are a little over the top. But the evening as a whole has a Monty Python-esqe oddness that makes for a deliciously funny seventy minutes of theater.
In The Dinner Guest, a quiet, reflective, aristocratic older man relates the tale of a dinner party at which he was seated next to a wolverine. Surprising and multi-layered, this reflects a deep familiarity with British humor.
The Cocktail Party involves two catty, gossipy women. The chatter about fashion and B-list celebrities, but as the cocktail party progresses, we slowly realize that their husbands are Third Reich higher-ups and everyone at the party is a Nazi official.
Skill Set is perhaps the most closely akin to a Python sketch. It’s just another day at the scalping firm where the salesmen count up their scalps and attach them to expense-account forms. It’s a brilliant exercise in sarcasm and office wit (“How’s the coffee?”. . . “Burned. Tastes like an inner-city house fire that killed three.”) and funny in much the same way that BBC’s The Office is funny.
The last two pieces, while well-written, spin a little out of control. In Pieta, Mary is pissed off at Jesus because he’s taking his sweet time resurrecting and she wants some kind of reward for all she’s had to put up with through the years. “I encouraged this God thing way too much,” she gripes. But Jesus is tired of his mother being on his case all the time. They argue and bicker, and while the commonality of their argument is the whole point of the sketch, it’s more situational comedy than the carefully observed satire of the previous pieces. The same is true of On the Nature and Religion of the Hibernian Peoples, or, Marty McDonagh Goes to the Bank which takes place in an Irish bar. A loose-lipped priest, two drunken parishioners and the local whore unearth the recent killing of a leprechaun. The humor lies mainly in the broad, overly exaggerated Irish accents.
Despite the lesser playlets, this funny evening should adorn Parks’ career. The cast members are all excellent. David Calvitto and Jody Lambert stand out with their precise comic timing and an inherent sense of the absurd. Director Paul Urcioli keeps the pacing razor-sharp. All told, this is theater that’s droll, topical, and smart. CURTAINUP
[Note that the piece The Doctor Visit has replaced Pieta.]
Image credit: Jesus Diaz