HOUSTON -- "The economy of language with which each of these three one-acts are told!" marvels Main Street Theater artistic director Rebecca Greene Udden about The Virtuous Burglar, by Dario Fo, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Literature, Enough Is Enough, by Cameroon born Protais Asseng, and Trifles, by American Susan Glaspell.
"They have different styles but are all efficiently told, bearing large messages. They get in and get out, gracefully, essentially." Grouped together under the rubric "A Festival of One Act Plays," the trio, which each take on various domestic issues, opens at Main Street Mar. 12 and runs through April 5.
Leading the trio is The Virtuous Burglar, by Fo, the renowned Italian satirist. The farce follows the misadventures of a would-be thief whose criminal pursuits are interrupted first by his wife, who calls in mid-burgle, then by homeowners, who return to their domicile at separate moments to commit their own illicit affairs. "It's a great illustration of his comedic anarchy," Udden observed. "There's not a lot of Italian politics to it Americans wouldn't understand. Mostly it attacks the bourgeoisie, its complacency."
Asseng's Enough Is Enough blends contemporary French comedy with traditional African storytelling as it asks: can a man become pregnant? This absurdist play, an argument for family planning, was initially translated into English for the Ubu Repertory Theater in 1985. Asseng was born in 1946 and wrote the political satire in 1978 while studying engineering in Paris. Udden considers it a "beguiling fable. I mean, the main character actually thinks he's going to give birth."
Trifles is a murder mystery by American Susan Glaspell, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Alison's House. A lonely woman is accused of killing her uncaring husband. The "trifles" of her life become the key to solving the mystery. Glaspell was a founding member of the Provincetown Playhouse (its major contributor/discovery was Eugene O'Neill), a revolutionary troupe; consequently, she experiments by having the accused remain offstage. Udden said, "The notion of the men blundering around looking for the big picture, but it's what they dismiss as the minutia from a woman's life: this grips me, being an adamant upholder of women's issues and women playwrights." "A Festival of One Act Plays" runs at Main Street Theater in Houston Mar. 12 - Apri1 5. For tickets, $11 - $17, call (713) 524-6706
-- By Peter Szatmary