The play's the thing in this package of three original scripts being rendered this month by the Gorilla Theater in Tampa. Each script seems more dominant than the individual actors, ultimately preventing the performers from fleshing out their roles. Still, the evening has some pertinent points to make and ends with a rather tempting conspiracy theory.
Gorilla My Dreams I Love You is a punny label to a hodgepodge of political commentary about the U.S. exploitation of women, apes and South American banana republics, all delivered by a cast of four in gorilla masks, which means muffled lines and exaggerated arm gestures.
The Public Domain players who deliver the Gorilla lines are able players, although there are no surprises here in script or delivery. The Gorilla sketches precede both of the other productions, and even offer a bit of interpretation for the middle play.
The middle play is Plutography in the Slave Trade, a promising premise that explores what would happen if a couple of yuppies bought a couple of hippies for sexual pleasure. This is Susan Hussey's script debut, and the script, again, comes off better than the performers. The cast is capable but the play really is about the idea of people buying people, about the power of money over sex, about the question of material values in a material world.
The actors aren't given the depth of character nor the range of emotions to make the play much more than an exercise in R-rated dialogue and occasional shock gestures. This is not to say that R-rated words and simulated sex are the purposes of the play, but these are the dominant elements.
The play offers no real tension, sexual or otherwise, between the two existing couples as they merge energies. That would be worth exploring and watching.
Mixed Blood, the final entry of the evening, delivers more of what is promised. Vincent Petti rambles about the stage with cigar and slide projector, recounting his rise and fall as the world's leading expert in viruses, and his casual, amoral step into human experimentation as he introduced the AIDS virus into humans along with a hepatitis B vaccination.
Audrey Hampton's script is based on a book by Alan Cantwell and as conspiracy theories go, this is a pretty intriguing one. While there may be a few gaps in the professor's logical recounting of how he scientifically achieved what he did, the theory has enough substance to make us ponder for a moment or two.
The Gorilla Theater productions are ideal for those looking for something different. This certainly isn't Our Town. And there is a close-up-and-personal element here in which the actor's cigar smoke drifts into your nostrils and the actors look you right in the eye and ask you to participate.
Three from Gorilla Theater
Through Sunday. The Loft Theater, 15th Street and Fletcher Avenue, Tampa. Call 877-4033 (Tampa).