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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00

The Woolgatherer

Written by Sarah Boslaugh
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Soundstage Productions 

Through 7/28/2007
Reviewed by Sarah Boslaugh
The Woolgatherer by William Mastrosimone is a charming dark comedy about two lonely people struggling to connect. Cliff is a truck driver stuck in town while his rig is being repaired. Rose works at the local five-and-dime and is a woolgatherer in two senses of the word: she habitually withdraws from reality into her daydreams, and she also collects sweaters from the men who have passed through her life.

This relationship doesn't seem likely to succeed: Cliff is an amiable fellow but has only one thing on his mind, while Rose has been burned too often in that department already. Will Cliff become just another sweater in Rose's closet, or will they manage to connect and have the relationship they both desperately want?

The Woolgatherer
is an excellent choice for Soundstage Productions, a local company which specializes in a sort of augmented reader's theatre. Mastrosimone's text is operatic in its structure: exposition is conveyed through rapid-fire dialogue between Cliff and Rose (that's the recitative), while monologues interrupt the action and allow them to reveal their inner-most thoughts and feelings (those are the arias). It's alternately funny and touching, and laudably economical as well: in less than ninety minutes, Mastrosimone creates two complex characters, makes us care about them, and sets up and resolves a conflict which speaks to the most basic of human needs.

While the script is well-written, the dramatic situation is entirely ordinary and both characters are perilously close to being stock figures from the Off Broadway division of Central Casting. The reader's theatre presentation manages to have the best of both worlds, keeping the focus on Mastrosimone's words while disguising the slightness of the story itself, which would be more obvious in a full-scale production.

Both actors create convincing characters. Kylee Miller's Rose is alternately vulnerable and exasperating, putting on pseudo-intellectual airs while revealing far more of herself than she intends to. David Bornholdt's Cliff begins as a pleasant guy looking for a good time, then becomes genuinely concerned about Rose when he recognizes her vulnerability. The direction by David Houghton keeps the focus squarely on Mastrosimone's text, enhanced by minimal staging, lighting and costumes. Carmen Larimore's musical selections, consisting of popular songs with themes of daydreaming or trucking, enhanced the evening's enjoyment. I could have done without the projected slides, however, which added nothing to the descriptions already present in the text.

The Woolgatherer
was presented July 26-28 [2007]. Next up for Soundstage will be The Carpet Bagger's Children by Horton Foote, to be presented September 20-22 at Minions Café Theatre in Maplewood. Ticket information is available from 314-968-8070 or from the Soundstage web site.

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