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Stage Review : A Tall Tale At The Wallenboyd

October 15, 1985|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

Since performer Kedric Robin Wolfe got a standing ovation at the Wallenboyd Theatre Saturday--and it wasn't even opening night--he must have something to say to an audience. I'll be hornswoggled if I can see what it is.

Wolfe was appearing on the "Angel's Flight" series, sponsored by Pipeline and the Museum of Contemporary Art. He performed a self-created piece called "Warren's Story." It concerned his unfortunate drunken war-hero Uncle Warren, who ended up on the wrong end of a live wire, and another family member named Warren who suffered the same fate some 30 years later.

The parallel is too neat for Warren's story to ring true. It feels like a tall tale, the kind one might invent in order to make one's humdrum home town sound more Gothic. (Wolfe is from Canton, Ohio.) Yet the locales--the barber shop, the welding shop, the high school football field--are real enough. Maybe there was an Uncle Warren at that.

What boggles the mind is Wolfe's manner of telling his story. When Uncle Warren joins the Marines, Wolfe marches around the stage--about face, hup, one-two-three-four! When Warren cuts his way out of the jungle, Wolfe flails around with an invisible machete--whack! whack! To illustrate a love-making sequence on Uncle Warren's grave, Wolfe strips down to a union suit emblazoned with magic-marker marks indicating nudity. At the climax, two buckets of water splash down from the ceiling.

Symbolism! Wolfe's text is likewise overstrewn with fancy writing. A sample from his program notes gives the flavor: "Inside, I'm like a pot of stew, I stand over it shaking in different spices, always stirring, from time to time a luscious potato breaks to the surface; a year ago one did, it had writing on it, it took a week to scrape away the gravy and when I could read the letters it said 'Warren's Story' and I've been chewing on it ever since."

Yet Saturday night's Wallenboyd audience was tickled and touched by "Warren's Story." This speaks well for Wolfe's unabashed manner of presentation and also testifies to our ongoing yen for yarns, no matter how postmodern the times. But up against professional storytellers, who know how to carve a tale without doo-dads, this performer would be in deep trouble.

"Angel's Flight" has two more sessions: Gilberte Meunier will perform Friday through Sunday, and Bruce D. Schwartz and Donald Krieger will collaborate on a new piece Oct. 25-27. 301 Boyd St., (213) 629-2205.

The weekend also saw the last performances of "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" at the Back Alley Theatre, a play I regret having waited so long to see. Donald Driver's script captures the small talk of American towns without implying that his characters are small people, and Allan Miller's company filled each character to the brim, especially Rue McClanahan as the town's disconnected telephone operator. Does the Ahmanson know about this play?

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