That Environmental Theater at 916 G St. NW, when it was a part of Federal City College, had some respectable original plays for its audiences. Now part of the University of the District of Columbia, the Environmental has another new play, but regrettably, it's not in the same league.
A member of the university faculty, Annie R. Crittenden, titles her eight-scene play "By the Time I Get Past Phoenix." It amounts to little more than a series of related dialogues. Her craftsmanship does, at times, extend to three characters but generally the scenes are between only two people.
Nita, the heroine, despairs of getting her lover Chet to stop drinking.When he leaves, she decides to take up with a more reliable man. The scenes alternate between his efforts to get off the booze and her reluctance to forget her love for him.
Chet's aim is to get from Colorado to California, and the Phoenix of the title refers not to Arizona's Phoenix, but to the sacred bird which rises reborn from the ashes. By their break both Nita and Chet may be reborn.
Dialogue may be Crittenden's strong point, though this isn't saying much since her dramatic mastery is limited to two-character exchanges. Bunker, a truck driver, far whom Keith Fullwood creates the best of the performances, serves as a foil to Chet while Nita's boyfriend becomes her sounding board.
With little to work with, director Frank Staroba finds little with which to disguise his amateur cast's awkward efforts. Performances continue tonight and Sunday and again next Thursday through Sunday.