There's glib humor here, as there is in all of the monologues, an element sometimes joined by tacky smuttiness. There's also hate. In "Amelia's Second Step," Daly becomes a butch lesbian speaking at an AA meeting and bemoaning the fact that her ex-lover has abandoned her for God. In "Francie's Benevolent Universe" she's a dizzy psychic on a call-in TV show, one of whose callers is a phone-in masturbator.The fourth monologue, "Slide Show," presents a wealthy widow who opens her 17-room home for historical-society salons at which she delivers slide shows. Among her slides are photographs of ancient religious statues, California fires consuming homes and blurry shots of her late husband, an archaeologist who, along with other family members, apparently died in some sort of natural disaster. She poses the rhetorical question, "What do I do with my pain?," utters a silent scream, maintains that the past may be the key to the future, and tells of a strange relationship with her housekeeper.In the final monologue, "Dr. Edie Gives a Commencement Speech," Daly portrays a dedicated Jewish high school teacher vigorously urging her graduating black students to listen to and follow their inner voices. If they do, presumably, all will be well.Daly and Hughes worked on "Mystery School" at the Sundance Institute in July. It's now being presented by the Long Wharf Theater and New York's En Garde Arts in New Haven through Jan. 15 and will be presented by them again at an Off Broadway theater, Feb. 28 to April 19. The main mystery here is, why?

There’s glib humor here, as there is in all of the monologues, an element sometimes joined by tacky smuttiness. There’s also hate. In “Amelia’s Second Step,” Daly becomes a butch lesbian speaking at an AA meeting and bemoaning the fact that her ex-lover has abandoned her for God. In “Francie’s Benevolent Universe” she’s a dizzy psychic on a call-in TV show, one of whose callers is a phone-in masturbator.The fourth monologue, “Slide Show,” presents a wealthy widow who opens her 17-room home for historical-society salons at which she delivers slide shows. Among her slides are photographs of ancient religious statues, California fires consuming homes and blurry shots of her late husband, an archaeologist who, along with other family members, apparently died in some sort of natural disaster. She poses the rhetorical question, “What do I do with my pain?,” utters a silent scream, maintains that the past may be the key to the future, and tells of a strange relationship with her housekeeper.In the final monologue, “Dr. Edie Gives a Commencement Speech,” Daly portrays a dedicated Jewish high school teacher vigorously urging her graduating black students to listen to and follow their inner voices. If they do, presumably, all will be well.Daly and Hughes worked on “Mystery School” at the Sundance Institute in July. It’s now being presented by the Long Wharf Theater and New York’s En Garde Arts in New Haven through Jan. 15 and will be presented by them again at an Off Broadway theater, Feb. 28 to April 19. The main mystery here is, why?

Mystery School

Production

NEW HAVEN A Long Wharf Theater and En Garde Arts presentation of a one-act play by Paul Selig. Directed by Doug Hughes.

Crew

Set, Neil Patel; costume, Linda Fisher; lighting, Michael Chybowski; sound, David Van Tiegham; production stage manager, Charles Means. Developed with the support of the Sundance Institute Theater Program. LWT artistic director, Doug Hughes; En Garde Arts founder and executive producer, Anne Hamburger. Opened, reviewed Dec. 19, 1997, at the LWT's Stage II; 199 seats; $ 39 top. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN.

With

Cast: Tyne Daly.An investigation of late 20th century spirituality and soul-searching may have been the aim of Paul Selig in his new work, "Mystery School," but the five monologues of which it consists amount to little individually and have no cumulative impact. In addition, neither Selig, director Doug Hughes or actor Tyne Daly has made the five plays' five female characters sufficiently different from one another. They all end up being much the same blunt Daly, an undeniable stage presence but lacking in range, nuance, vocal color and dramatic specificity.Daly performs on Neil Patel's sleek, minimalist setting and wears one basic black costume that's slightly altered for each of the characters.In the first monologue, "Tongues," she plays a viciously bigoted Arkansas Bible Belt Christian fundamentalist firmly convinced that all the other members of her church are hypocritical sinners. As she maligns them, one and all, in a totally un-Christian way, she truly believes she's the only one worthy of being saved and going to heaven.
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