ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Refuge from the Storm,
But where is the theater? The small door at the far end of the room leads only to the outside again. Through that door, and around a curving pathway, is a tent-like structure made of sheets of black cloth, and tucked inside is a cozy little space which holds four or five rows of comfortable movie-style seats and a minuscule stage comfortably fitted out as an Irish tavern on the rocky coast of Maine, courtesy of set designer Alexander Williams.
Refuge from the Storm is a revised version of a play written seven years ago by Bill Murphy. Martha and Bert (Barbara Keegan and Austin Grehan) are the sweetly bickering couple who run the tavern, but they leave at midnight to wend their way home through the raging storm.
Shortly afterwards, another couple stumbles into the tavern (Bert has forgotten to lock the door), but their bickering is not so sweet. They are the Dexters, Doris and Tom (Gretchen Koerner and Michael Harrity), and their marriage, as well as their small boat, is on the rocks. And despite the fact that they might have perished when their boat sank, they continue what appears to be a never-ending quarrel. If you must take sides, he seems the more reasonable, despite his infidelity. She is just a bitter shrew, taking everything he says and turning it against him.
The Dexters' argument is interrupted by a series of characters who wander in, one at a time or by twos, seeking refuge from the storm. Eventually, there are six refugees in addition to the Dexters and, as they drink their way through the night, they tell their stories.
Jim and Candy (David Love and Chase McKenna) come in together: he is a businessman and she is a hooker. Jim is racked with guilt because he is not with his wife on this night as she gives birth to their second child. Candy, who has no guilt, takes great pride in her work. Mike (Dane Bowman), the captain of a small cargo ship, is courting the barmaid Eileen (Kassandra Woodley-Connolly) who lives upstairs. Also living upstairs is a fire-and-brimstone priest, Father Gray (Steve Gunning), who keeps reminding everyone that they are going to hell. And finally, there is Todd (Seth Caskey), who is carrying around the ashes of his father, who, he notes proudly, was a "career criminal."
The actors, directed by playwright Bill Murphy, handle their stories well. They are an engaging bunch and they hold the audience's interest. But in the end, the playwright lets the audience down. The ending that should be filled with wonder and suspense is instead, one of those "And then I woke up " kinds of artifices— a gimmick that doesn't surprise and doesn't quite suffice.