Damnee Manon, Sacree Sandra

How many times have we seen such characters as the prostitute with a heart of gold and the religious zealot who proves to be a hypocrite? Two such figures are the basis for a Michel Tremblay play that in its time (1977) and place (French-speaking Canada) was considered, like many of his plays, provocative. In light of today's moral values, the play—structured as, essentially, two ongoing monologues—offers frank commentary on the subjects of religion and sex, but not much more. Where Tremblay has missed the boat is in creating more ambiguity within the framework of his two-character structure, or perhaps reversing the poles by having the religious character harbor sexual secrets and the gay transvestite exhibit intense but hidden feelings about God.

Director Richard Stein's version (of John Van Burek's English translation) is a straightforward presentation, his performers wholly embodying their roles. Jessica Lamprinos adds a physical dimension to the role of religious zealot Manon, describing such sensations as kissing the body of a rosary's Christ figure. She also reveals Manon's vituperative nature in numerous ways commendable for their subtlety. "I'm on the verge of blasphemy!" she states, unaware she has already blasphemed. She then blasts God for being "the one who made all the decisions," as if He were an errant husband, and describes what it's like to feel God coming inside of her—again, as if he were nothing but the most base mortal.

Alexander Price introduces welcome elements of humor into the role of the transvestite who calls himself "Sandra," a character who gets off on his uncanny ability to transform his outer appearance—what he calls "a variable woman." Price glows with genuine warmth as a reflective spirit who understands women and what it means to be female. If nothing else, Tremblay's opus gives us a little over an hour's time in the company of two fascinating and wholly intriguing characters.

Presented by and at Monkey Wrench Collective, 204 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton. June 24–July 24. Fri. & Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (714) 525-1400. www.monkeywrenchcollective.org.