by Jeniva Berger
IN Solo (CoachHouse, 304 pages, $17.95 paper), the editor Jason Sherman has selected a dozenone-act, one-character plays that illustrate how people manage ormismanage their lives as they cope with loneliness in various ways. Sherman,himself a clever playwright (The Leagueof Nathans, One in the Back, Two in the Head), recognizes that theelements of good storytelling, always important, are particularly crucial herebecause solo performers must carry the weight of an entire act on theirshoulders.
On stage it`s easier towork within this limitation; on the page, it`s a different matter. While thereisn`t one weakly told "story" in Solo, whether about a woman copingwith her widowhood (Joan McLeod`s poignant Jewel)or thehorrific account of a random murder by a psychopathic killer (Robin Fulford`s Lovesong), some simply fare betterthan others in the stage-to-page transition. Many of these Works,inclining as they do toward the stream-of-consciousness school ofplaywriting, cry Out for the inventiveness of a flesh-and-bloodperformer to give them dimension. For instance, as gratifying as it is to seeAlan Williams`s brilliant Cockroach Trilogy included, thetext of this bitingly funny social satire lacks the balance of the underlyingpathos that Williams himself gave it in performance.
It is the moreclassically constructed dramatic monologues that "read" the best inthe collection, in particular Judith Thompson`s Perfect Pic, anostalgic foray into a startling friendship; Linda Griffithss delightful A Game of Inches, played out in baseballmetaphors; and Michel Tremblays LaDuchesse de Langeais, an engaging portrait of an aging homosexual.
Although there aremoments when the reader must struggle to get inside the heads of the charactersas they ruminate about life`s vagaries, Solo is, oil the whole, a strikingtribute to the craft of the one-act, single-character play. It`s anadditional bonus to discover that Such a work can provide, as the book jacketpromises, "intoxicating hybrids of theatre and fiction."