Southern Gothic and Shakespearean drag at ITW’s One-Act Festival

Jennifer Knight, left, and Jenny Friedman discuss their problems with men as Juliet and Katherine in "The Real Problem." — Photo by Sam Moore

Two elderly Southern sisters have spent the lion’s share of their adult lives in a trailer together. What happens when, on a mad, senility-tinged whim, Marjorie (Marcia Draper) grabs the purse of Belinda (Felicity Russell) for the sheer sake of stuffing it with her yellow nightie and a bottle of perfume from the dollar store, and announces she needs a change: “I may be out all night. Don’t call the police”?

Antic action ensues.

Island Theater Workshop artistic directors Kevin Ryan, Lee Fierro, and Stephanie Burke have dipped into the wonderful one-act trunk of Oregon playwright Ann Wuehler, and for their fall Pick of the Crop event, will be airing the above-mentioned “dramedy” cunningly titled “The Mating Season of Flying Monkeys,” as well as a smashing second one-act called “The Next Mrs. Jacob Anderson.”

The setting could be anywhere — a farmer’s market, say, on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer — as two upscale women with baskets (Corinne de Langavant and Kate Hennigan) pick over veggies and fruits from an outdoor greengrocer’s. Right off the top, the older woman announces to the younger, “I know you’re [expletive deleted]ing my husband.”

Watch out as a code red threat level unfolds, with crafty dialogue as the young, pretty Lisa fairly crows with the love she believes she’s wrested from the future (she hopes) ex-Mrs. Jacob. The latter is torn between the heartache of a long history as a cheated-upon wife, and genuine pity for another rival in a line of disappointed cuties, all of whom were fated to be Mr. Jacob Anderson’s castoffs. And even if the young lady should succeed in becoming the next Mrs. Anderson, take a look at the present Mrs. and judge for yourself, my dear: Is this is the fate for which you’d willingly sign up?

Mrs. Anderson to her young rival: “You’re what every man wants a woman to be. Nice.”

The rival to her lover’s wife: “Don’t be disgusting. He said you would be disgusting.”

From another trunk of talented work, the ITW directors have selected two pieces — both of them Tudor-accented, with many sly winks at today’s culture — by TV writer and playwright Bruce Kane. The first, called “The Real Problem,” presents Juliet (Jenny Knight) looking for a no-show Romeo; Katherine, a.k.a. “the Shrew,” and not yet tamed (Jenny Friedman); Anne Boleyn (played with hilarious facial plasticity by Corinne Kurtz); Desdemona (Christine Feronne), who’s still in a state of bleary romance, clueless about Othello’s fatal jealousy; and finally, Hecate, one of the three fabulous witches from Macbeth (Leila McCarter), lurching on arthritic knees as she serves chalices of mysterious brews and stares into the future as it shimmers on the surface of her famous cauldron (and, no, she doesn’t say “Double, double, toil and trouble”).

At one pivotal point, one of the leading ladies ladies asks Hecate if she herself has ever been in love, and she answers with a diverting, albeit ghoulish story. It’s Katherine the Shrew, however, who imparts dating dicta to the struggling young ingénues, particularly Juliet who sits and frets, hearing nothing from Romeo. Katherine preaches a Tudor version of “the Rules” — that 1990s “keep him waiting” guide: “Love makes you vulnerable,” she warns the young women. Keep your body to yourself, is her basic message, and his interest in it and you will prevail.

They’re all doomed, of course, except for Katherine, who we know will go on to marry Petruchio, become his vassal, and have 12 or so kids. “Is this a happy ending?” she seems to ask in a silent, snide aside, after this brief time of freedom is allotted her.

The final one-act, also by Mr. Kane, is the monologue “Dating Hamlet.” Jenny Friedman reprises Ophelia as she broods over her love interest in the melancholy and erratic Dane. She, too, could use a little coaching from Katherine: Don’t force it, make him wait, etc. Ophelia’s eye is on the ball; in other words, she wants queenhood, but she needs Hamlet’s proposal, and court politics as imposed by the demanding Gertrude and scheming Claudius are blocking the way to the throne. Poor misguided baby, is all we can think, as she hopes and dreams her way to what only we know is a watery grave.

Word to the wise: Don’t bring the kids. The poster warns “Adult content — Mature audiences only,” as it should when we’re dealing with women quarreling over a purse for a late-in-life night on the town, or over zucchinis about who gets to be married to whose husband, when Elizabethan women bemoan their lousy choice in boyfriends, and Ophelia dreams of a life with a depressed and perhaps depraved prince of medieval Denmark.

“The Pick of the Crop” evening of Bruce Kane and Ann Wuehler; upstairs stage of the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, 7:30 pm on Nov. 13, 14, and 15. Tickets may be purchased at the door, by cash or credit card. For more information, visit or call 508-627-2456.