The United Solo 2014 Theatre Festival presents as a blitz of solo performances. We are five weeks into a ten-week extravaganza of individual performers tiptoeing on self-strung high wires.
In the already-tiny Studio Theater on Theatre Row, the audience is forced up front, because the back six rows are cordoned off. Onstage, Renata Hinrichs’ Random Acts offers us a child’s-eye view of the tinderbox that was Chicago’s south side in the late sixties.
Recently, when I saw Kevin Kline casually toss off a more-than-passable duet from Giselle in My Old Lady, I was reminded of a time when actors were expected to “move well” or “sing a little” — or both.
Hinrichs is an actor who moves more than well; she dances. She uses every centimeter of the bare stage, leaping and curling and sweeping about to enliven her cast; she is, by turns, child and mother, father and teacher, ugly and sweet, generous and rigid. Renata is the child of a minister, and a really tough mom, living on the edges of a community about to cleave into “them and us.”
Outside, the South Side’s reaction to MLK’s murder plays out just as this little, white, Christian girl goes to school in a caldron neighborhood. It’s a good, linear story, well told. Inside, the story is skeletal. You ‘get’ the mom and the dad but you don’t care about them. Again, with only one performer, no matter how hard she works, too many of the others play thin.
Not sure what the impact must be for a one-woman show to succeed. Hinrichs did so much right. It is good theatre to watch an actor stretch wide, risk big, and expect you to ‘get’ her as she shifts from kid to mom to angel.
Still, the “voices” she gave us could have used more delineation. And yes, I know, she’s “killed some babies”; that is, she’s cut some copy she loved. That said, even at an hour, it runs long. (The “guardian angel” doesn’t get better with repetition.)
The provenance of the title – RANDOM ACTS – presumably a reference to the much claimed phrase “…random acts of kindness” is disputable. But, certainly any of us who have lived in big cities through the contentious years of racial strife in the streets, have long understood that such random inter-racial acts are a neighborhood trust exercise. They touch us as they happen. They are the stuff of daily life. I’m not sure there’s a play in the random acts referenced here. There IS an energetic and thoughtful performance.
Random Acts – Writer and performer Renata Hinrichs; directed by Camille Saviola with an assist from Rick Hinkson. At The Studio Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street. Running time one hour without an intermission. There are no further performances scheduled.