The Gifted Susan O. Koozin Displays Her Versatility in Stages Repertory Theatre's The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead

The setup:

This theater curiosity running at Stages Repertory Theatre is a hybrid -- part point-of-view drama, part acting exercise -- recording the aftermath of a husband walking out, with seven characters played by a single actor.

The setup:

Rhonda has been married for almost two decades, apparently a conventional woman to be found in many a suburban development, when to her astonishment her husband walks out. Her reaction is unexpectedly violent and leads to a chain of events, like ripples in a pond, that spread and create chaos in the lives of others.

A gifted actor, Susan O. Koozin plays all the roles and displays an admirable versatility, though some of the acting requirements present insurmountable problems. The main role is that of Rhonda (The Redhead), seen as she digests the news of being abandoned, and again a decade later, in a poignant finale.

Koozin captures her, but Rhonda is humorless, apparently deeply naive as to human nature, and a bit boring. Her violent reaction seems inexplicable, even more so when we meet the husband in Act Two, who turns out to be such a loser-lout that Rhonda might better have knelt to give thanks for his departure.

Koozin does get down on her hands and knees in one vignette, not to pray but to portray a four-year-old boy -- observing a mature woman under a table playing with toys is a sight I hope never to witness again.

Koozin's skills come into sharp focus when the writing is crisp, as it is in the vignette with an inquisitive neighbor (The Brunette), and I enjoyed this enormously, as it is filled with humor, irony, denial and even a twist.

And I loved Koozin as The Blonde, all shiny and desirable and self-assured. As the husband, Koozin gives it a valiant try, but she is no drag king, though vivid writing makes this passage interesting. As a female doctor, Koozin is credible, though little range is demanded here. And Koozin fails to hit the mark playing a senior female with a walker, appearing far too young.

There are six extensive costume changes, seen usually through a transparent curtain and accompanied by music, often lugubrious, and these are tedium itself, stopping the play dead in its tracks. It occurred to me early on, and regretfully, that the play would have had several times the impact, and twice the pace, if each part had been played by a different actor.

The audience, apparently more receptive than I to acting exercises, gave a standing ovation. The play is by Robert Hewett, and Stages artistic director Kenn McLaughlin directed the evening.

The verdict:

A gifted actor essays a variety of characters, with mixed success, in a melodrama observed from varying points of view.

The show runs through October 30 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123.

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Jim Tommaney