Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Dobama triple header is first class theater

Cleveland Press January, 15, 1971

Dobama Theater is Cleveland's off-Broadway theater in the best sense of the term. The group proved it again last night by doing what a dedicated and skillful theater group is expected to do-to try something new, inject into its own personality and do it all with skill.

I am not aware of the theatrical history of "Stop, You're Killing Me," three one-act plays by James Leo Herlihy, author of "Midnight Cowboy." I cannot imagine the trio of plays getting a better production anywhere, however.

AS USUAL at Dobama it becomes difficult without a knowledge of the stage directions to tell where the script leaves off and the fine hand of director Don Bianche starts, though his presence is obviously everywhere.

The three short plays are outwardly separate and distinct, but certain threads run through them. In each there is a threat of something terrible about to happen. In each it grows more pronounced. In each there is the juxtaposition of character and alien situation.

THE FIRST two plays are really monologs. In the first, "Laughs, Etc," a woman at a gathering of friends tells a story to her guests. Her conversation indicates the reactions of her guests and the interruptions of her husband. There are the brief digressions that people tend to bring to their story telling and eventually there is the point that even the teller misses

For Marji Dodrill the non-stop talking is a brilliant tour de force as she rattles away, describing her hippie neighbors upstairs, her condescending interest her curiosity in them but her non involvement.

THE SECOND, "Terrible Jim Fitch," is another long monolog but the audience sees the person being spoken to. Richard Howey is splendid as Jim Fitch -- mean, nasty and philosophic in his own way -- a man who talks, argues, pleads, humors and finally threatens his girlfriend, in trying to get a response out of her.

He had beaten her earlier and in spite of his threats and arguments she is now giving him the silent treatment. He has a self-proclaimed criminal mentality, makes his living by robbing the poor boxes in churches and for all of his boasting of independence is as lonely as she is. Finally her silence gets to him and brings out a latent murderousness.

Of the three it is probably the most powerful.

THE THIRD, "Bad Bad Jo-Jo," is the funniest and the most grotesque of the plays. A successful film writer who gives his audiences what they want - murder and camp -- is visited by couple of fans. In the course of their visit they turn into the author's violent creations, a pair of murderers.

Berman as the author is perfect in his smug superiority and his incredulity at the things his guests say.

TWO plays are monologs and the third, is almost that but in each one the main character has to have more than listeners. He needs listeners who respond.

"Talk," the man screams at the girl in the second play. "Talk; I need the sound of a voice."