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directed by NORMAN RENÉ


JUDITH IVEY as "Eileen Maloney"

The action of the play takes place in and around the
apartment of Eileen Maloney.  The time is the present.

Sets & Lighting Designed by Gerry Hariton & Vicki Baral
Costumes by Mary I. Gleason
Managing Director - Harry Orzello

FEATURE ARTICLE: L.A. TIMES, Sunday, Aug. 22, 1982

by Lawrence Christon

The opening of Neal Bell's "Two Small Bodies" at the Matrix Tuesday is yet another example of how far the theater's management will go to do right by a play. Producer Joe Stern first got wind of it at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference in 1977, then heard of a subsequent production at Playwrights Horizon, "and finally got to see it on its feet at an outfit called the Production Company in New York.

"Its something I've wanted to do for a long time, and even turned down a couple of two-character plays, such as These Men,' in order to do it," said Stern. "I had Michael McGuire in mind for the male role, but it wasn't until I saw Judith Ivey in the New York production that I knew we (meaning Actors for Themselves) had the right actress. Before that, I held onto the play for 16 months. That's how much I think of McGuire."

The upshot of it is that both Ivey and director Norman Rene, who runs the Production Company, are coming out to do it again. That may not be news on the commercial circuit, but it is a tribute to the drawing power of Equity Waiver for artists.

"I really only came out to do this play," said Rene, "not to put out feelers into television and the movies. New York is slow this time of year, and I wanted to stick with a play I think is unique in its insights and emotional impact.

"The play is loosely based on the Alice Crimmins murder case, in which a cocktail hostess murdered her two children. Ivey plays the hostess and McGuire plays a detective who's investigating the case and strikes up a personal relationship with her. To me, the play says an awful lot about the prejudices between sexes and classes, the old baggage one brings into new relationships, and the lure between a mother-hooker figure and a policeman who's reconceived in her mind as a father figure. I think in terms of language and texture, and in the way it deals with the complications between men and women, that it's a fascinating work."

Rene is also the person who conceived and directed "Marry Me a Little," which brought to light songs that were dropped for one reason or another from Stephen Sondheim musicals. A production is still running in London (it played last year in New York). Maybe Stern could coax Rene into doing it here.

REVIEW: VARIETY, Thurs, Sept. 16, 1982

Actors for Themselves' second entry into its current two-play repertory, "Two Small Bodies," by Neal Bell, is yet another version of an actual case in which a promiscuous mother is accused of murdering her two children and her seeming in-sensitivity to the matter complicated the investigation.

Bell's rendering of the tale is chilling in itself and director Norman Rene mounts it on a cold, representational set that emphasizes the personal tragedy. Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral have seen to the set design and made it particularly stark.

Judith Ivey, who originated the role of the mother when show preemed at Playwright Horizons in New York, is repeating in her role and Michael McGuire is playing the policeman who is alternately disgusted and fascinated with this unemotional woman.

In a series of short scenes (almost cinematic in nature, but not as effective), story unfolds that, although she didn't kill the children, she is guilty of sometimes wishing them dead, as they got in the way of her hedonistic activity.

Ivey plays the role of the unsympathetic sybarite with an absolute remoteness and verisimilitude. With a stoic attitude toward the detective, the slightest deviation reveals the pain she is actually suffering at the somewhat sadistic handling of the interrogation by McGuire.

Latter plays the detective straightforward, and his unswerving approach to the probe heightens the torture the girl endures. The lust he begins to feel for her reduces them both to the animal level. But it also reduces the show to a plane of cold, hard fact which is more difficult to digest than fiction.

The work being done is a masterful production, but the audience has to work to become involved. There's an undercurrent running through the play that makes the viewer feel that he wants to sympathize with someone. But when that feeling starts, he is made to feel unwelcome. A strange and intriguing type of play that never gives itself to the audience.

There's an invisible wall between the characters that extends beyond the proscenium and keeps the audience at a distance. It's as if there's a sign warning: "Look, but don't touch — or be touched."

Mary I. Gleason's costumes are quite good as are Hariton and Baral's sets and lighting.

REVIEW: L.A. WEEKLY, September 3-9, 1982

by Joie Davidow

A few years ago, New Yorkers were intrigued by the sensational details of the Alice Crimmins case, which ran in the daily papers for months. Playwright Neal Bell exploits the same macabre side of human nature that makes crime headlines sell newspapers in this two-character play, based on the Crimmins case. Alice Crimmins was a cocktail waitress, accused of murdering her two children. Bell sets aside the nasty issue of what kind of a rotten lady kills her own kids — actually, he seems to suggest that anybody could do it if they got mad enough. Instead, he fantasizes on the relationship between Crimmins and the investigating detective, concerning himself with the tension between man and woman — the power trips, the obsession, the tentative attempts at communication, the hasty retreats back to game-playing. He does it through a series of blackouts, at first very short scenes, then longer ones, and he uses every easy trick: she takes off her clothes, he takes off his clothes, dirty talk, violent talk. At one point, she asks him, "What are you gonna have to do to make me react?" It's the same approach Bell seems to be taking with his audience.

But what makes the evening interesting — very interesting — is the work of actors Judith Ivey and Michael McGuire, directed by Norman Rene. Perhaps the best thing that can be said for Bell's work is that it challenges the actors and gives them a chance to show off. These two are more than up to it — creating real characters, taking them through a range of emotions. It's a fascinating display of acting skill, which is nearly enough to sustain one through the relentless pessimism of the play.

REVIEW: DRAMA-LOGUE, September 2-8, 1982

Reviewed by Lee Melville

First of all, one has to accept that Neal Bell's Two Small Bodies is not logical; otherwise, you come away from a performance with too many questions for which no answer is provided or can be concluded. Two Small Bodies is an abstract jigsaw puzzle where the pieces do not fit. It makes an interesting companion piece for Harold Pinter's Betrayal with which it splits the week in performances at the Matrix Theatre where both are being presented under Joseph Stern's Actors For Themselves banner. Whereas Betrayal is perhaps Pinter's most logical play —finely crafted with every line filled with meaning — Bell's play is loosely structured with its dialogue taking on dark, ominous meaning — or is it all a fantasy?

Eileen Maloney's two small children are missing. Kidnapped? Murdered? By whom? Perhaps by her husband. Perhaps by her. Lt. Brann seems to believe she did it and in a series of interrogations tries to break her down to a confession. If it is based on the well-known Crimmons case (in New York), it never fully commits to a resolution. Obviously, that is Bell's intent. Lt. Brann, father of two boys, is a straight arrow police officer who gets "wrought up" by missing child cases. Eileen is a cocktail waitress who feels "being a mother can be a rather tiring thing;" her children crowd her. Do these different attitudes cause the negative attraction toward each other as they engage in a sexual tug-of-war? Could be. Or does each represent a fantasy to the other? Very likely.

You're not apt to find cleaner, more solid acting anywhere than in the performances of Judith Ivey and Michael McGuire as they turn these rather ill-defined characters into real people. Through Eileen's hard, brittle exterior Ivey illuminates the vulnerability inside; if, at times, she seems too forced, it is exactly what Maloney would do. McGuire gives a simple lesson in responding to another person; he receives what Ivey emits with understated honesty. There is not one false moment in his precise portrayal of a man grasping and, at the same time, losing his grip on reality. One is not sure what the term "actor's actor" means anymore but if it is someone other actors can appreciate, study and gain from, then McGuire is the epitome of that.

There is a third character in Two Small Bodies — the lighting design of Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral. Nothing more is needed onstage to convey time, mood and place. If lighting was always this exciting it would not so often be the overlooked child in the design family...

One can disregard the flaws because they are minor in view of the major breakthroughs Two Small Bodies achieves. This production should be seen primarily for the acting which Stern's company again attests to how exciting good theatre can be.



Two misfits who meet
by Ed Kaufman

At first, "Two Small Bodies," currently in its West Coast premiere at the Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood, seems conventional enough. A routine investigation of a couple of missing children. Asking all the questions is a tough, no-nonsense New York cop, and answering the questions is the equally tough mother of the two children.

So far it looks and sounds like TV fare: the exhausted cop and the flippant mother. Only it's not. Author Neal Bell has used the conventional format of the "investigation" to go beneath the obvious and the routine. As a result, "Two Small Bodies" becomes a psychological whodunit and a study of attitudes and relationships.

Author Bell has managed to capture a mixed-up world with a sort of street poetry that often soars. Certainly it sears, as the two characters try to get their emotional bearings in a sea of change and uncertainty. And it's no longer a question of increasing violence. Every generation has had violence. It's a matter of how we react to it, and the value system that gives life meaning to offset all the craziness.

What makes "Two Small Bodies" so strong is its attempt to find a sense of shape in the world. Shakespeare might have looked for a system in the heavens. Author Bell never looks up from around the apartment of Eileen Maloney. If there's an answer, it's tentative and, perhaps, written in the wind.

Eileen and Lt. Brann are a couple of misfits. She's a cocktail waitress, a high-priced hooker, a woman who's a mother and who feels "crowded." And she's also full of confusion and guilt. Brann's a New York cop, a realist, at times abrasive, a relentless pursuer of facts. He's also vulnerable and a pretty decent family man trying to cope in a world of sham.

The two meet ("collide" would be a better word) on the white, austere set of Gerry Hariton and Vicki Baral, who also designed the effective lighting to silhouette a couple of characters struggling with the "truth": the facts of the case and the emotions within each of them.

Judith Ivey and Michael McGuire are absolutely stunning as Eileen and Brann, whose star-crossed world brings them together. Both are allowed the actor's right to touch all the emotional bases. Ultimately there's a sort of understanding that comes from emotional exorcism.

REVIEW: DAILY NEWS, September 27, 1982

'Bodies': a Mystery of the Mind
by Rick Talcove

In Neal Bell's stark drama, "Two Small Bodies," a detective and a would-be murder suspect go "one on one" in a series of interrogations that often make you to wonder who is captive and who is captor. By employing a technique that boldly eliminates all theatrical waste, this latest production by Actors for Themselves at the Matrix Theater in Hollywood achieves a formidable success.

Theatergoers may notice a distinct similarity between the character of Eileen Maloney in "Two Small , Bodies"'and Claudia Draper, the heroine of "Nuts." Both women are hard-living, hard-driving examples of soiled femininity, with constant chips on their shoulders.

But where "Nuts" concentrates on whether Claudia is sane enough to stand trial for a crime she obviously committed, "Two Small Bodies" (suggested by a true incident) presents the mystery of whether Eileen Maloney actually killed her two small children, sleeping in an adjoining bedroom.

Lt. Brann, the investigating officer assigned to interrogate Eileen, has his reasons for being alternately repelled and fascinated by this woman. She represents a heartless, selfish, sarcastic female who nevertheless brings out a long submerged passion in him. Like Martin Dysart, the psychiatrist in "Equus," Brann is drawn to this woman sexually for the very things that disgust him emotionally.

Ultimately, through the clever game-playing each character employs upon the other, the solution to the mystery of "Two Small Bodies" is adroitly solved. This is not an Agatha Christie tale of false moves and unmasked motivations; rather, it is a tightly coiled mystery of the mind and how human beings can be dedicated to their own self-destruction.

But, above all. "Two Small Bodies" is a fascinating piece of theater.

Production Staff:
Stage Manager - Kurt Glowienke
Technical Director - Richard Hart
Master Electrician - Jim Barbaley

Electricians: Kurt Glowienke, Gordon Huff, Gus Mendoza, Richard Portillo
Carpenters: Ray Acosta, Mary Angelyn Brown, Gordon Huff, Gus Mendoza

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