Invisible Girls Theatre Company deserves considerable praise for its ambitious staging of Three Plays – Unveiling by Vaclav Havel, Abortive by Caryl Churchill, and Embers by Samuel Beckett – at TBG Theatre on West 36th Street in midtown Manhattan. The juxtaposition of Havel’s Orwellian attack on Communist conformity, Churchill’s ruminations on a marriage crisis, and Beckett’s expression of existential despair was not only imaginatively conceived but, equally important, it was intelligently and creatively executed.
The entire program is just 90 minutes long with no intermission but a lot is packed into that brief hour-and-a-half. In Unveiling, the first of the three one act plays, Ferdinand Vanek (Alexander Robin Kass) has been invited to the home of his best friends, Vera (Marcela Biven) and Michael (Patrick Hamilton) where his hosts ply him with food and drink, entertain him with a display of their own opulence and, most importantly, try to convince him to conform to the values and lifestyle that they deem most appropriate. (Vanek, who also appears in several of Havel’s other works, is a thinly-disguised stand-in for Havel himself, a dissident playwright forced to work in a brewery because his writing has been banned by the Communist Czechoslovakian Government.)
In Caryl Churchill’s Abortive, Roz (Marcela Biven) and her husband, Colin (Patrick Hamilton), are grappling with the reality of Roz’s having been raped and having chosen to have an abortion, despite Colin’s having offered to raise the child as his own if she chose to keep it. She’s not sure that she made the right decision and he’s not absolutely certain that she really was raped. It is all taking a toll on their marriage, particularly on their sex life.
Embers is a rather typical example of Beckett’s sense of existential despair, although probably not his best. Henry (David Carlson) seeks to drown out the incessant sound of the sea in his head through his own continual blathering, but to little avail (his father died in the sea and, by this time, he is probably quite nuts, as his wife Ada (Marcela Biven) never ceases to remind him.
The entire Three Plays production gets by with a minimal set, which presents no real problem in Abortive and Embers which originally were produced as radio dramas. It is a bit more of a problem in Unveiling, however, where the audience is forced to simply imagine the opulence and other “stuff” which normally would be presented on stage and which are integral to the play. But somehow the play’s director and its outstanding cast still make it work.