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THE TRAGEDY OF BEN and WITH A WHIMPER
by Rick Reed
2001-08-01

This article shared 1360 times since Wed Aug 1, 2001
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One can learn a lot by reading director and playwright Mark Macoun's notes in the program of these two one acts, making their world premiere in Oak Park. For one, Macoun calls himself a "theatrician." No such word exists...at least not in my Webster's. Next, he pleads for understanding regarding the many hats he wears ( in addition to writing and directing the two plays, he also stars in the first one ) , telling us it's not a result of "egomania" or "being a control freak." He then goes on to contradict himself by saying he "wanted to be sure ( he ) agreed with the way they were being interpreted."

These notes did not bode well for the maturity or the finesse of the creative mind behind these two plays, which showcased some of the worst theatrical abilities I've ever seen. Let's start with The Tragedy of Ben. The one-act begins literally with a bang, when Ben shoots a convenience store owner for not handing over the key to the bathroom quickly enough when Ben ( Jeff Hendrickson ) was in a state of gastrointestinal distress. Ben is frantic, covered in blood and wanting, very logically, to beat a hasty retreat. His buddy, Josh ( Macoun ) wants to hang around for a while, although he can't say why. From this ludicrous beginning grows an even more incredible premise: the murderous set-up becomes a forum for Josh and Ben to discuss Josh's homosexuality and Ben's closeted gayness. The two talk, wrestle, kiss and in one truly unbelievable gem of a moment, Josh fucks Ben up the ass, while the body of the convenience store owner lays at their feet. The playwright never bothers with motivation. Bad enough that Josh won't leave, but Ben, instead of leaving himself, pleads with his friend to go, waiting around, presumably, for the police to arrive and to throw him in jail for the rest of his life. Never mind that the characters are both completely unsympathetic; this one-act lacks so much credibility that it never, not for a minute, comes to life. One suspects the playwright thinks this is edgy Quentin Tarantino-ish sensibility; he is mistaken.

With a Whimper, with a fresh new trio of faces ( Tom Carlson as the bartender, Derrik Anthony as James, and Naomi Buck as Jenny ) starts off with a whimper...boring conversation between a bartender and a drunk patron that goes on long after an audience could sustain interest. Things heat up when the bartender ( a Vietnam vet who looks like he would have been maybe two years old when the war ended ) attempts to go home, and his deranged customer pulls a gun on him, in an effort to get him to keep the bar open. Enter Jenny, a broken-hearted doll, who is drawn into the scenario of forced socializing. There's no suspense, because the playwright forgot to give the allegedly sane characters any fear for their lives ( at one point the would-be killer even gives Jenny the gun; she gives it back ) . And again, there's no believability. Young Macoun's fascination with these older characters is obvious; unfortunately, what's also obvious is that he's way out of his depth creating them. They're far beyond the scope of his early 20s' imagination or frame of reference. It's an old adage, and it's been espoused in a million creative writing seminars, but it's one that applies particularly well here: write what you know.


This article shared 1360 times since Wed Aug 1, 2001
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