Peithman, Stephen, Stage Directions
In Transit A selection of works that explore a sense of place.
Unusual settings link this month's plays-from airports to the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland and a religious commune in the 1830s.
As Neil LaBute's The Mercy Seat begins, the World Trade Center has collapsed while Ben Harcourt is at his mistress Abby's loft a few blocks away, instead of at a business meeting at the now-destroyed site. Listed as one of the missing, he suggests to Abby that he fake his death and disappear so that the two of them can begin a new life together. Instead of a messy divorce, he can now play dead and be a hero to his kids. If his plan for a new life isn't exactly "the American way," it does fit his own "that's the way it is" philosophy. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Abby is appalled at his suggestion. Her reaction to Ben's disengagement with the September 11 tragedy brings to the surface long-festering doubts about their relationship. Soon, a woman whose physical world has collapsed must work to find her way through the psychological rubble. One male, one female. [ISBN 0-571-21138-0 $13, Faber and Faber]
As It Is In Heaven by Arlene Hutton recreates the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, focusing on three troubled young women who have joined the celibate religious group to escape the outside world of 1838. But when the girls start to neglect some of their chores, stern eldress Hannah discovers that the women are having visions of angels in the woods. One even draws pictures that she claims she has received from the spirit of Shaker founder Mother Ann Lee. Hannah believes that these are nothing but hallucinations; no true angel would descend upon a righteous community without first visiting its leaders, or would it? The sightings soon threaten to unravel the community's entire structure and Hannah's own status with it. …