Read Three 1-Act Plays Reviews

River Walk Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 6
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ross

“Anselmo continues to show his skill…”

Three 1-Act Plays, the second volume from Tom Anselmo, complements the first, in that it continues the exploration of vulnerabilities in characters. Anselmo continues to show his skill in uncovering the deeper issues of interpersonal relations in this trilogy.

In ‘Matt & Sara’, readers find the mysterious Matt grabbing the attention of three female guests at a resort, ironically by remaining silent. Sara, one of the three, first assumes that Matt has some sort of condition, and later realizes that she has one of her own – one that leaves her on common ground with the silent Matt.

Hearing different sides of an argument in one’s head may well be a sign of insanity, but in ‘The Voices’, it aptly illustrates the complicated internal debates we engage in daily just to make it through difficult interactions with others. Cathy struggles with how much to say – or not say – to her friend Ellie, after she sees Ellie’s new beau with another woman. Cathy’s inner voices are boisterous throughout.

‘Penny’ gives readers the return of Gail, of Gail’s Place, with Penny as her sister-in-law. Gail cuts through most of the arguments offered in defense of her brother Robby, whose gambling has given his wife Penny the unenviable task of asking family for loans to bail him out.

Anselmo offers readers some important issues to consider, and creative means to do so. Three 1-Act Plays is a page-turner, and will also fit well in the classroom for theatre, psychology, and women’s studies.

Roundtable Reviews,
Reviewed by Wendall Sexton

“Now if I can only see it performed on the stage.”

Three 1-Act Plays: ‘Matt & Sara’, ‘The Voices’, ‘Penny’, written by Tom Anselmo, are three separate forays into the realm of the personal watershed event. These are moments granted, opportunities allowed people to stretch beyond – at times painfully beyond – their own perceived limitations and perceived view of things.

In ‘Matt & Sara’, two people – Matt & Sara – find themselves drawn together at a resort, though it becomes a task to actually meet since Matt does not talk (he is embarrassed over the fact that he is a stutterer) and Sara, perhaps a bit more demure than she needs to be, is embarrassed by the ostentatious flirting of her Aunt Flora and her younger sister Anne.

With ‘The Voices’, Cathy is faced with the burden of knowing something damaging about Ellie’s new boyfriend Steve – someone she and her husband Marty have come to like – and battles the contrasting voices inside herself that tell her she should tell Ellie what she knows or she should keep quiet, minding her own business.

The last play of the three, ‘Penny’, centers around a visit Penny and her daughter Sara make to Gail and Ron. Gail is the sister to Penny’s husband Robby. While the visit is, on the surface, merely a family trip; underneath all the pretense, Penny is there to ask Gail and Ron to cosign on a loan that will get Robby out of the debt problem threatening his life. Gail, knowing all about her brother’s gambling problems, is tired of bailing him out of trouble, and now wonders how far one has to go in their responsibility they owe to their family.

Three 1-Act Plays by Tom Anselmo is a trilogy of three plays with solid plots, worthy themes, and good characters. Anselmo addresses issues all people face, which interested me, as they pulled me through the pages to learn just how they dealt with the same problems I knew. When a story is one a reader can relate to – and there will be a large segment of the populace that can relate to what is faced here – you have landed something special. Now if I can only see it performed on the stage.

Book Pleasures,
Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey

“Anselmo’s plays renovate the tradition of serious drama”

The second volume of Tom Anselmo plays Three 1-Act Plays (Red Brindle Press, New York, 2006, 1st edition) is not a series like the first one Gail’s Place by virtue of the same protagonist and unity of place, but by the common motif resolution of self’s internal conflicts. As Anselmo puts it in his preface to the plays ‘I write about people who are on the verge of self-discovery’, the book causes the conflicts in an individual’s mind peep through the voice of the leading characters. As the person in the story discovers his or her own suppressed urges, values of familial love, commitment, and obligation undergo critical scanning.

The plays begin with ‘Matt and Sara’, set in a resort, in which the protagonists consciously deny themselves aspects of their personalities that society might find obnoxious. Matt gives up speaking in company to evade any awkwardness on account of his stuttering. Sara is a self-restrainer, ashamed of her aunt’s showy manners practiced for winning men’s affection. Their need and struggle for self-acceptance bring them together on common grounds. The theme of the play symbolically comes out to be the victory of human understanding over flirtatious ostentation in any meaningful relationship.

Getting deeper to the core of the conflict is ‘The Voices’, a play in which two different impulses of Cathy, the heroine, are personified characters. The issue at hand is Cathy’s suspicion of Steve in regard to his sincerity to Ellie, Cathy’s friend and Steve’s girlfriend. Cathy has seen Steve with another young woman in way that makes her inner voices contend for keeping or revealing the incident to Ellie. The first voice presses on retaining the secret for the sake of intimacy while the second one is resolved on squaring things at the surface for the sake of making relationships better. Anselmo presented the conflict in Gail’s Place. Only this time both impulses are vis-à-vis, sweeping dust off the true nature of social reality: is social reality there as matter of course, or is it created when one impulse gets over the others to seize the self? The author leaves the question open to the audience, to be taken up by their own inner voices.

Summing up the argument between the inner voices in the third play ‘Penny’ is again Gail Stanza, heroine of Anselmo’s trilogy of 2-act plays Gail’s Place. Eponymous Penny is Gail’s sister in law who has continued pampering her husband Robby despite his repeated indulgence in gambling. As Penny asks Gail for help with their debt, Gail reacts crossly to Penny’s blind devotion to her husband in the name of love. The dialogue between Gail, Ron, and Penny brings out the issue of familial obligation versus common sense. The underlying question is whether sympathy should be furthered or checked when one’s peace of mind is knuckling under it.

Anselmo’s plays renovate the tradition of serious drama by invoking a debate over the limitations of social norms and individual obligation to follow them. The scope of his discussion is multifold, pertinent to matters of family, sense, obligation, spontaneity of one’s self, and discovery of new ways of existing against the modus vivendi.

Anselmo’s Three 1-Act Plays is the thoughtful mind’s donut.

Curled Up with a Good Book,
Reviewed by Luan Gaines

“With an acute awareness of the most ordinary circumstances, Anselmo’s characters struggle to rise above their inadequacies, embracing uncomfortable truths with the courage required.”

Emotional vulnerability triggers an immediate self-protective response, the natural instinct to withdraw from imminent confrontation. Playwright Tom Anselmo tackles this dilemma in a trio of plays – ‘Matt & Sara,’ ‘The Voices,’ and ‘Penny’ – each revealing another face of such exposure and the character’s individual reactions to changing circumstances.

Each play focuses on a confrontation and its resolution, either addressing a conflict or achieving a comfort level that is less threatening for the character. “In ‘Matt & Sara,’ a handsome young man deals with his stuttering “condition” by means of behavior modification, believing his method will lead to healing, or at least a diminishing of his symptoms.

In the course of his visit to a resort, Matt meets Sara with her sister and aunt, identifying qualities in Sara that infer a sympathetic heart. Although they have a few awkward moments, the two overcome their initial trepidation, moving forward in the relationship.

Cathy, a young married woman, is the focus of ‘The Voices.’ Cathy has guilty knowledge of her best friend’s current lover, unsure whether to tell the friend her suspicions and possibly endanger the friendship. After a short conversation, Cathy realizes her friend is consciously choosing to ignore the obvious, clinging to foolish romantic notions. The ensuing test of Cathy’s marriage trumps the value of the women’s friendship, redefining the parameters of both.

‘Penny’ is by far the most satisfying of the three plays. The wife of a gambler, Penny is visiting her sister-in-law, Gail, in hopes of borrowing money to cover her husband’s debts. Long aware of her brother’s gambling addiction, Gail is not receptive to Penny’s pleas, confronting Penny with the ugly truths she has chosen to avoid, her co-conspiracy in her husband’s gambling problem and the denial of the situation.

Penny is far from prepared to break the cycle of addiction, but Gail is refreshingly candid, unflinching in the face of discomfort: “I’m having trouble holding back what I want to say; you’re having trouble putting a muzzle over my mouth.”

With an acute awareness of the complexities of the most ordinary occurrences, Anselmo’s characters struggle to rise above their inadequacies, embracing uncomfortable truths with the courage required.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2006

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