I wish Harry Kondoleon’s Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise had played longer than its 10 showcase performances, so I could urge you to see it. Kondoleon’s amusing one-act isn’t great, but it’s more than merely diverting. A comic soap opera about urban sophisticates, it’s one of those crazy, Joe Ortonesque plays in which the characters say and do the outrageous things most people think of but never actually say and do – that’s how Kondoleon can squeeze so much material into a feverish 45 minutes.
Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.” The two women eventually team up against the egomaniacal Carl; Beth is a frustrated poet, Adel an aspiring novelist, and they’re tired of being exploited in Carl’s pulpy best-sellers. “I won’t wear lost love like a corsage,” sobs Beth, launching a hilarious demonstration of her orchidaceous verse. “How long are you going to keep sending the same five poems to the
New Yorker?” taunts Carl. “You think they’re amnesiacs?”
All this hysteria was smartly enacted in Theater Core’s production at the Newfoundland Theater, especially by May Quigley as Adel and Ken Olin as Carl (who seemed, aptly, a swell guy rather than the “rat with a necktie” he was pegged by the women). Max Mayer’s staging was also clever; on exiting, the actors retreated to a balcony over the stage to observe the action as raptly as the audience did.
Self Torture played on a double bill with Keith Reddin’s
Desperadoes, which opened with a promising Sam Shepard-ish image: a woman pasting wet dollar bills all over a blindfolded man in jockey shorts tied to a chair. The play didn’t live up to that tableau, though. It was
Moonchildren meets When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder meets
American Buffalo without any real threat of danger. Those plays are decent models, though, and Reddin is clearly a writer with potential.
Soho News, August 20, 1980