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a Farce
by Steve Murray

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 648

SHOWING : March 27, 2003 - May 03, 2003



March 27-May 3
By Steve Murray (1999's Rescue and Recovery)
A World Premiere Coproduction with Theater Emory
Directed by Wier Harman

It's 2002 and the world is spinning faster now. And faster still from credit cards and cell phones and phone sex and stop it all--for the love of a boy with puppy dog eyes. One sunny day little rich Lily meets Derek, a sweet boy who does research for Anna, an anthropologist who wants Richard really nastylike and he's, well, Lily's dad. Manna, the latest from the brilliant Steve Murray, turns out to be an intricate clockwork of a farce. When they tell us it's a small world, it's only because technology and "convenience" have crushed us real tight...

Preview Performances:
Thu-Sat March 27-29, 8pm

Regular Performances:
Thu-Sat April 3-May 3, 8pm
Sun April 6-27, 5pm
2pm matinees to be announced

Gala Opening
Sunday March 30, 2002
details to be announced

Ticket Prices:
$10 Preview performances
$20 Thursday, Friday and Sunday performances
$25 Saturday performances
Discounts available for students, seniors and groups

Actor's Express Box Office 404-607-SHOW (7469)

Cast Wier Harman
Woman A Kristy Casey
Derek Brian Crawford
Blake Ryan Kipp
Richard Kim Shipley
Lily Heather Starkel
Woman B Anne Towns
Anna Kathleen Wattis
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Cynic's Banquet ... A Bad Aftertaste
by Dedalus
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
I must confess to facing life with a great deal of skepticism, and not a little cynicism. I even sometimes take a perverse pleasure in witnessing the depths to which out public figures have been known to sink. After all, when Monica Lewinsky is treated like a peer by respected journalist, and Reality TV is the most popular genre in entertainment, what can you say about human nature?

But, I suppose, at heart, I’m still a sentimental old idjit. Which is why I left Steve Murray’s “MANNA,” currently on view at Actor’s Express, wondering about the bad taste in my mouth. Make no mistake, this play is a cynic’s wet-dream.

It follows a panoply of urban characters as they bump against each other, renegotiate their connections, and move on. The relate AT each other, but never WITH each other. Life and Love seem to be a giant pinball game in which the one you’re left with can be the result of “Manna from heaven” or “Stepping into a pile of ,” but never the result of your own wishes or actions. Derek loves Lily, but blows it after a drunken one-night stand with Blake. Anna is trying to start a relationship with Richard, but can’t let go of her fantasy – a wrong-number anonymous phone sex partner. As for Blake and Lily, or Brooke and Baby Sasha – well you get the picture.

The first act of this play is wonderful – it creates a believable world of absurdity and coincidence, filled with eccentrics struggling to balance their cynicism and their romantic natures. It sends the audience out to intermission on a cloud of delight, impatiently waiting the joys that come next. It is funny and has a depth missing from most comedies.

But, Act II, makes a sharp left turn. The actions get ugly, the characters get ugly, and the absurdities turn silly. Playwright Murray is making the interesting point that we spend too much time trying to connect with those who are absent, and not enough time connecting with those who are present. But does the reason really have to be because those with us are just not worth relating to? Maybe he is trying to make the point that technology and civilization have driven us all to be shallow jerks. A valid concern, but I don’t buy it.

The script has a lot in it that comes across as awkward. Lily’s “alter-ego” appears and disappears at the convenience of the plot. Characters face the audience at the end and moth platitudes that undercut everything we’ve come to like about them. Coincidences and unspoken revelations multiply exponentially. And everyone becomes so alienated that we’re left wondering why we liked them so much in Act I.

The cast was good at drawing us into the surreal world being created. I especially liked Heather Starkel’s Lily, on paper a generic stereotype (the airheaded rich blonde), on stage a dynamic, interesting, and funny person. I just hated what the script finally turned them into.

I’d be the last person to knock cynicism. But, when my face is rubbed in it – as it was here – I find it ultimately unengaging and self-defeating.

-- Brad Rudy (


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