BSC's tasty tidbits; 'Plenty' isn't; an almost perfect Mahler's Sixth
''Ping'' (at the Boston Shakespeare Company through April 1) is an evening of tasty tidbits of plays. It starts with spicy Chekhov piroshki and ends with cooling Beckett sorbet.Skip to next paragraph
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The Chekhov half of the evening is all fury, flying feathers, and fun, employing director Peter Sellars's loopy sense of humor full-strength. His actors have tantrums. They lie on tiny tables. And when they get thirsty, they yank open a drawer in a table and drink water out of thimble-size cups.
The henpecked lecturer in ''On the Harmfulness of Tobacco'' (Brian McCue) starts off as hesitant as Charlie Chaplin and ends up an anxious, deranged Woody Allen.
In ''The Marriage Proposal,'' Sandra Shipley learns too late that the neighbor (Paul Redford) she'd argued with had come to propose. The tension between the two as they attempt a second, more civil, meeting is absolutely crackling.
The third piece, ''The Tragic Hero'' (also about an unappreciated husband), fares less well, probably because of its redundancy.
In contrast, the Beckett half is basically muted and subdued. In ''Ghost Trio ,'' John Madden Towey sits in a cell-like room waiting for a never-seen woman to arrive. Offstage, Henrietta Valor narrates in monotone his movements from bed to window to door. This clinical emotionlessness is counteracted by the precise and elegant lighting (by Michael Nishball), which warms the gray set.
The middle Beckett play, ''Radio II,'' about a wacky doctor (Towey) who is attempting to obtain a ''strictly literal transcript'' from a strapped-down man, while also seducing his assistant (Valor), has more of a farcical feel than the others.
The final play, ''Ping,'' is a young man's sensorial remembrance of seeing a woman's body (dead? - it's hard to tell). It's like a dream that he can't quite remember, so he goes over the details he does know till the whole emerges. Starting in black, light comes up imperceptibly until the speaker (McCue), who is lying on a slanted board, comes into view. It creates a contempletive mood that leaves us feeling cleansed.
It's an odd mix for an evening of theater, but it works. So you never get a main course - you're left feeling full anyway.