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Red Hat and Tales

For all that so many couples--heterosexual or otherwise--are seeking marriage, Nick Salamone's play may well be a cautionary tale about the impossible baggage each partner brings to a relationship. Paul (Salamone), who rarely stirs out of the bottom of his closet (a very well-designed one by Justin Huen), is a downsized greeting card poet who has lost his job because of a rather nasty Mother's Day card he designed.

Unhinged by his unemployment, and by the death of his Siamese twin, Patrick, Paul has turned all his literary efforts to rewriting his life on picture postcards to everyone he has ever known, ever loved, or ever been dumped by. Unable to let go of the past, he daren't venture into the future. His green-card wife, Sheila (Elizabeth O'Connell), a bit of an oddball herself, while to some extent enabling Paul, nevertheless doesn't mail his plagiaristic postcards, a fact he's aware of but prefers to ignore. Bisexual in a liberated kind of way, these two are natural foils for each other. While Paul is intent on remaining exactly where he is, Sheila thinks of herself only as a visitor to the closet, though both are stymied by their refusal to face reality, even in their rare sexual collisions, which only seem possible when they're involved in childlike role-playing. Sheila also has her issues about the past, and she never takes off that hideous, tomato-red flag of a hat, a major stopping point for Paul.

Most of this is portrayed in expressive and moving monologues, enlivened by playwright Salamone's language, and the two actors' fluid outpouring of it are loveably inane and wonderful at the same time. Salamone the actor has a sweet naivete that invites hugs even while its viscera are on trembling defensive. His character is always in the moment, but it's usually a moment at one remove from reality. In her Canadian, jolly hockey sticks way, Sheila has his number but knows that the cord that ties him to reality, and to her, is becoming very frayed. And although she needs that green card, her feelings for Paul are what drive her to save him.

Jon Lawrence Rivera's direction mines all the tender, funny, sparkling moments of the absurdist dramedy, shaking us up a bit and never letting his actors or the audience off the hook.

This is definitely a love story but from a realm slightly beneath the surface, where insanity and hilarity are as grotesquely related as poetry and the circus of life.

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