Two questions are apt to pop into your mind while watching Michael Weller's one-act play, "Tira Tells Everything There Is to Know About Herself," which the So Far Theatre Company is presenting at d.c. space for a run through Dec. 3.
Why would Weller, whose credentials include such fine plays as "Moonchildren" and "Loose Ends," permit this early work to be performed? And why would the So Far Theatre Company want to perform it? Nobody's reputation is likely to be remotely enhanced by this production -- and that goes, as well, for the two actors, Margaret H. Burns and Dan Markley, who make up the cast.
Weller calls "Tira" a "stylistic exercise," but its most discernible style, 1960s absurdism, has aged poorly. The action takes place in a park, where Tira (Burns), an indecisive romantic, attempts to strike up a relationship with five successive men (all played by Markley). Tira stumbles over the male ego every time, when she is not stumbling over her own fantasies, and her would-be lovers end up deserting her as abruptly as they might a sinking ship.
First there is Edward, who is so boring that the best Tira can say of him is "You're what I've always wanted -- sort of." Then there is Poof, a flaming homosexual in a purple T-shirt and butterfly kerchief, whose masculinity goes no further than his penchant for doing Clint Eastwood imitations. Poof is replaced by a macho Italian, who has been through dozens of women, but is mainly in love with himself. A crude lower-class worker, who talks dirty and sees "poivoits" behind every bush, comes along next. (He pushes his ham and cheese sandwich in Tira's face.) Finally, she summons up the image of a silent, sensitive man she once saw on a bus, and he turns out to have an unhealthy thirst for her blood. Contemplating the accumulated mishaps, Tira decides to commit suicide by holding her breath.
Whatever evidence of poignancy, humor, fantasy and surrealism there may be in the script -- and I fear there is not a lot -- is thoroughly overlooked by this primitive production, which resembles nothing so much as a bad acting class audition. Burns' Tira is a charmless tangle of confusions, while Markley's acting skills barely permit him to essay one character, let alone five. The So Far Theatre Company is relatively new to the Washington scene and may yet find its stride. But after this, its second production, so far is not so good.