Good plays, with lunch

By Gary Clift

One of the un-tapped cultural opportunities in Manhattan is the annual spring semester institution called Lunchbag Theater. Acting and directing students put on one-act plays in K-State’s Purple Masque Theater, in East Memorial Stadium. Admission is free. As the plays begin at noon many Thursdays, audience members are allowed to bring food into the theater.

I’ve had a lot of fun watching Lunchbag plays over the years. The series is now under the supervision of Prof. Charlotte MacFarland. And I’ve seen a couple of decent Lunchbag entertainments already this semester.

On March 7, those of us in the audience were treated to a funny version of “Pillow Talk,” by Peter Tolan. Director Dylan Rogerson made certain this funny one-act got a nice, fluffy treatment, just what it needed. The story is about two young men, Aaron (Mark Young) and Doug (Christian Mullen) who are on a cross-country drive.

They have stopped to spend the night in the mobile home of Aaron’s lonely grandmother. But this means the two of them will have to share a bed. And for some reason there is a stuffed goose staring right down at them when they hit the sheets.

At first the problem is that Doug (who Granny calls “Steve” after her diminutive propane route salesman) is uneasy about sharing a bed with another adult male. The arch dialog makes use of language a little too sophisticated for the subjects—homosexual experiences in the boy scouts and the pain of the bite Doug got from Granny’s pet ferret.

And then, after they are seen during a bout of tickling which was intended to get Doug over his fear of touching another man, Aaron is worried his grandmother will think he is “like his cousin Duane.” He considers telling her that Doug was suffering a seizure. He asks to borrow a wallet-sized photo of a woman to show the old lady, a picture of someone female he can claim is his romantic interest. But Doug only has one picture of an acceptable woman, and “She came with the wallet.”

“Pillow Talk” turned out to be quite a bit of light fun. In fact, it might be just exactly the right sort of thing for folks on campus to watch while they are eating their lunches.

A week later the play was a completely different breed of cat. “Acceptance,” directed by Randy Rhoten, showed us a crisis point in a marriage.

Abby (Nicole Casonhun) and Anthony (Terrance Newman) have been married for seven years. The impassioned wife believes that all the sacrifices have been hers. She has worked, as a teacher and at second jobs. She has had an abortion.

Meanwhile Anthony has had time to take long walks and to turn out a couple of poor-selling novels. His sex life with his wife has become less than satisfactory, anonymous seeming. And Abby has in general had enough.

So she tries to provoke him as they wait around the apartment one day. This takes some doing because, as she observes, “You hate confrontation.” His response is a little cryptic. He says he is afraid of success.

Oddly, late in the brief one-act, she confirms that she accepts him for what he is. Now, will he accept the prize that will make a name for him as a novelist?

Casonhun and Newman treated the Daniel Walter Owens script’s relatively formal, certainly not conversational dialog as if it were a suggestion of the irreality of the entertainment rather than as a series of set-ups for arch readings. The other-worldliness was also suggested by the characters’ tendency to talk in speeches while looking down the middle of the audience and not at the person to whom their remarks were apparently directed. It was an interesting take, one the play itself suggested.

After spring break, the Lunchbag series begins again. On April 4, interested parties will see “All New People” by Zach Braff, directed by Amanda Garvey. I suspect those of us in the Masque on that occasion will have a fine time watching another intelligent production of a worthy play.

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