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Campfire Stories

By David Morley | Posted 2/25/2004

Campfire Stories

Mobtown Players through Feb. 29

An evening of monologues can be a dangerous undertaking for a theater group--as well as for the actors performing the monologues, and the theatergoers laying down their precious dollars--because everything hinges on the performances. But Campfire Stories, four monologues staged by the Mobtown Players, rises to the demand of such a calling, and is, on the whole, a very strong, enjoyable show.

Campfire Stories consists of four tales of horror: an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat"; a play by Rich Espey about the 1904 Baltimore fire as told by H.L. Mencken; "The Myth of Orithyia," an original play by Mobtown Player Ryan Whinnem that looks at a sordid, extramarital love affair; and "You're Scaring the Children," another original play by Annapolis writer Robert Lenz.

In "The Black Cat," Niji Ramunas (pictured) moves in and out of the scenery flawlessly, telling the story--the spooky tale of a drunkard who accidentally kills her husband, only to be betrayed by her resurrected feline--in a captivating manner. Director Jim Page displays an impeccable sense of blocking and dramatic lighting. Moving in and out of shadows, emerging and fading at pinnacle points of the story, Ramunas demonstrates excellent expression onstage.

Ted Alsedek, who plays Mencken in the subsequent piece, tells the tale of the Great Fire with inimitable wit. His delivery of the horrifying conflagration is well-executed, and his manner of looking audience members in the eye conveys the intent behind the whole show--that these are stories that could just as well be told in some remote wooded site over s'mores.

"The Myth of Orithyia," meanwhile, is a strange piece, consisting of four stories told by four characters on the same stage, though all are, in a sense, the same story. It is a tale of infidelity that Whinnem ties to a tribal myth. Though the acting was rife with compelling tension, the piece was a bit too obscure; it was hard to get a sense of what Whinnem's trying to say.

"You're Scaring the Children," finally, will restore faith for anyone on the fence about the quality of local theater. Every nonbeliever should see Gareth Kelly's hour-plus delivery as a survivor of an elementary-school massacre. The script is sophisticated, and Kelly's handling of the character is truly beautiful, as he sustains and develops his persona throughout.

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