Let It Go, With Marbles Rolling

Delicious, chaotic monologues - Vital Signs is first class theater

“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 11pm 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 letting 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 onstage 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 somber yet still moving atmosphere unlike “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 so convincing that we easily believe that the character Mary Titfer has even forgotten her name.

But there’s more: Not only has she prepared two rather controversial audition pieces, the first one is classical, the second contemporary. She also brought her cat, Tat, along – allowing for the word-play “Tit for Tat!” But it’s more than wordplay, as we learn as the monologue unfolds.

“When I stop my classical piece, I jump straight into my contemporary piece, which is…“ and Godwin-Seidl opened her shopping bag – well, we did not expect that – “beating the kitty on the head with the hammer.“ And to the laughter of the audience, she demonstrates by pulling 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. Rumors are that the retired founder and artistic director of the renowned Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky, USA), Jon Jory, may be the skillful playwright.

But while speculation continues, his/her play was certainly a worthwhile evening out.

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