“After a while we’d all turn in, and just as I was about to drift off to sleep I’d hear this…,” the rolling sound of a marble was just audible, and the audience – immediately captivated by the intimate atmosphere – was following its course across the stage. “This happened every night.“
It was Friday, Feb. 19, at Theater Drachengasse and somewhat past 11.00 pm when Australian actress Browynn Mertz-Penzinger, delivered the moving monologue ‘Glass Marbles’ of Jane’ Martin’s play Vital Signs (1990). Dressed in all-black and leaning against the left side of the stage wall, she had in her hand a small cotton bag of marbles. The stage is gently illuminated with a spotlight onto the protagonist, the monologue itself tells of a dying mother, who practised to let go of her loved ones by rolling marbles across the bedroom floor every night.
This was the final performance of the careful crafted production, as Vital Signs is a series of short, unconnected monologues of women portraying in most cases significant episodes in their lives. The cast of the vienna theatre project – that night on-stage alongside Mertz-Penzinger were Lyndsey Thurgar, Sharron Aubrey and the company’s director, Joanna Godwin-Seidl – was directed by Kathy Tanner, Irish-born actress and Co-Director of the English Lovers.
Not all of the 21 monologues performed have that sombre but nevertheless moving atmosphere as ‘Glass Marbles’. Particularly Godwin-Seidl’s ‘Audition’ was a highly entertaining masterpiece in portraying the nerve-wrecking experience most actors face when auditioning even for minor roles. The performance was that convincing so we easily believe that Mary Titfer, so the character’s colourful name, has forgotten indeed her name – her stage name, of course.
But the monologue had further drama to offer: Not only has she prepared two rather controversial audition pieces, as we learnt quickly, though the first one is classical, the second contemporary. She also brought her cat, Tat, along – allowing for the colourful word-play Tit for Tat! But that is more that a word-play, as the monologue unfolds.
“But when I stop my classical piece, I jump straight into my contemporary piece, which is…“ and Godwin-Seidl opened her shopping bag to fetch – well, we did not expect that,“beating the kitty on the head with the hammer.“ And as to the laughter of the audience, she demonstratively pulled a hammer from her bag.
Her gestures left no doubt, just in case we had any: “Is this woman kidding? Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you but I don’t think she is kidding. Well, that’s it, listeners, that’s the full menu – that’s all she wrote!“
The award-winning American playwright Jane Martin is an alias, thought to be a man. Rumours say, that the retired founder and artistic director of the renowned Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky, USA), Jon Jory, might be the skilful playwright. While speculation about the identity of the writer continues, his/her play tonight was certainly a worthwhile evening out.
This is a draft, to be published in The Vienna Review, March 2010