Tent City

Theater Arts Banner by Merian H.

March 1993
Playwright : Susan Hayden
Director : Allan Vint
Producers : Jasper Collins, Brenda Smith
Associate Producers : Lorette Moreno, Marion Sandberg, Michael T. Weiss

Lucky Davis …….. Tom Brower
Vaughn Hoover …….. Arliss Howard
Estelle del Monte ……… O-Lan Jones

At the Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029
March 4, 1993 – March 20, 1993, Thursdays — Sundays, 8pm; running time: 1:20 hours

Tent City
Met Theatre, Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 7.50 top

The Met Theatre presents a drama in one act by Susan Hayden; produced by Jasper Collins, Brenda Smith; directed by Allan Vint; associate producers, Lorette Moreno, Marion Sandberg, Michael T. Weiss.

Lucky Davis … Tom Bower Vaughn Hoover … Arliss Howard Estelle del Monte … O-Lan Jones Tent City” concerns three nothing people who essentially do nothing. In a stab at Chekhovian realism, the play peeks in on the lives of twotraveling tent show “artists” and a hanger-on who contemplate doing something someday. What one gets are three dynamic performers struggling in a vacuum.

Lucky Davis (Tom Bower), a magician and paraplegic, rolls his wheelchair and roadside philosophy over to the trailer of Estelle del Monte (O-Lan Jones), a coquettish singer and guitarist whose hourglass shape provides most of her songs’ interest.

She’s hung up on her ex-beau Vaughn (Arliss Howard), who has just appeared after a long absence.

Even after Estelle recognizes that Vaughn’s “illusion is more attractive” than he is, she does not change. Neither she nor Vaughn give any purpose or drive to their lives, as if they have all the time in the world to waste. Lucky tries to show them otherwise, but he too makes no moves to go on.

When the end — a blip of an anti-climax — arrives, the audience has to ponder whether it’s over or just intermission. The best clue is the actors’ appearing to take bows.

Playwright Susan Hayden clearly did not set out to present a narrative with plot. Mood and atmosphere are more important, and at that she and director Alan Vint mostly succeed.

Jones slinks around in a slip and robe and a two-tone voice like a refugee from “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Howard brings humor to an otherwise bleak exegesis.

Bower as Lucky lends likability, and has some lovely lines. “By the time you understand anything, it’s over,” says Lucky. But bouquets of lines do not a play make.

Sets, James Eric; lighting, David Joseph; sound, James (Jim Bob) Campbell. Opened March 4, 1993; reviewed March 6; runs through March 20.
Variety.com Date in print: Tue., Mar. 16, 1993Affectionate View of Carny Life
March 12, 1993

Life in a carny tent show has its own tone and flavor. Susan Hayden’s “Tent Show,” at the Met Theatre, is redolent of that flavor. Few writers have so well captured the laid-back desperation, the acceptance of failure.

Lucky (Tom Bower) is a magician, confined to a wheelchair since the same auto accident that killed his wife. He’s sharing a room with Estelle Del Monte (O-Lan Jones), who admits “infidelity runs in my family, it’s a genetic thing.” The appearance of Estelle’s randy, self-centered ex-lover Vaughn (Arliss Howard) hardly causes a bump in the path of Lucky’s September-May relationship with Estelle.

As a matter of fact, there are few bumps at all in Hayden’s script. It paints a realistic, emotionally involving picture of the trio, and their empty lives, but never rises to dramatic intensity in spite of Alan Vint’s understanding, affectionate direction. The playing out of the action is there, then almost surreptitiously it’s over. No emotional hurdle has been jumped, no dramatic walls broken through.

Jones shines as the floozy with a heart of pink Jell-O; Howard’s kinetic, physical performance is striking, as is Bower’s kindly old loser of a trickster. But like the tinsel outside the tent, their sparkle gives the lie to what’s awaiting inside.

“Tent Show,” Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends March 20. $7.50; (213) 957-1831. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

From Ms. Hayden’s website:
First produced at the Met Theatre in 1993. Story involves a singer in a traveling carnival, caught in a love triangle with a drifter/cowboy and a paraplegic magician. It is about the search for home and reconciling one’s past.