You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running”

photo courtesy of Daniel Hill

Play:        “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running”

Group:        Soundstage Productions

Venue:        ArtSpace, 220 Crestwood Center, Watson at Sappington

Dates:        July 23, 24, 25

Tickets:    $10; contact 314-223-3965 or

Story:    Originally an evening of four one-act comedies, this production features a trio of those brief sketches.  In “The Footsteps of Doves,” middle-age married couple Harriet and George verbally spars while shopping for a bed to replace their original one, with the assistance of a persnickety clerk and the unexpected intrusion of a carefree young woman.  “The Shock of Recognition” features a major disagreement between a playwright looking for realism in his work that includes full male nudity and the priggish objections of the producer footing the bill for the upcoming debut production.  The third vignette, “I’m Herbert,” concerns the painstaking efforts of two elderly folks to recall past episodes in their relationship that often apparently involved other people.

Highlights:    Soundstage Productions bills itself as “the only professional reader’s theatre in the Midwest, if not the country…In the golden days of radio, audience members gathered around their glowing Philco sets to hear the great storytellers of their time tell the great stories.”  With some art work and technical enhancements, Soundstage presents works with minimal sets and props save the stands that hold scripts for the performers.

Other Info:    Even with the fearsome burden of line memorization more or less removed, there still remains the considerable responsibility of shaping characters on the part of the players and incisive guidance on the part of the director.  Both are lacking in this presentation, which isn’t helped by a script by Robert Anderson that often is tepid and creaky and probably was back when it debuted in 1967.

    The best written skit is “Recognition,” which at least sets in play a confrontation between the desires of the “tortured artist,” a playwright named Jack Barnstable, and the paroxysms of the overwrought producer who is convinced audiences aren’t ready for displays of nudity on the stage.

Lance Begnaud nicely sketches a portrait of the frustrated writer who yearns to escape the confining strictures of Hollywood with the relative artistic freedom on the Great White Way, if only he can convince his timid producer.  Matt Anderson has fun portraying the uptight, buttoned-up money man, although having trouble getting beyond the marginal stereotype of his character.  Chrissy Young does well in a minor role as his impressionable secretary, while Stephen Chamineak chews up the sparse scenery a bit too much as an over-anxious actor auditioning for the part of the man who gets to recite the show’s overall title in his birthday suit.

Anderson also has a good time playing a precious store clerk who does his best to seal the deal with a married couple who are looking to replace their 25-year-old mattress and box springs with a newer, and perhaps, different model.  Deb Dennert nicely sketches the role of a woman who yearns for some practicality and comfort in her bedding, even while more or less affirming her marital devotion, while her husband sees any change as intrusive and a bit alarming as well as an affront to his masculinity and bedroom prowess.

Jeff Kramer is a bit too predictable in his approach as the husband, although he plays nicely off Young as an amiable lass who is looking for a fresh start after her divorce from a momma’s boy.  Kramer sifts a bit of the poignancy in their meeting as he focuses on the better parts of his marriage.

The final skit, a two-character bit with Dennert and Kramer as doddering senior citizens who still try to think young, is essentially offensive from start to finish.  This weary attempt at finding humor in dementia would test the abilities of the most accomplished actors, and falls painfully short here.

Bornholdt’s direction is either way too subtle or just plain missing in action for the finale and his pacing is too torturous in the “Recognition” piece.  Even in just 90 minutes the show seems to drag too often, while the photos by Daniel Hill displayed to the side and above the action (by Daniel Hill) quickly become repetitive and dreary.

There isn’t a roaring faucet on the premises, but the occasional bursts of noise from the mall can provide a workable substitute for any audience member choosing to tune out this frequently tired exercise in comedy.

Rating:        A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.