'Pandora's Box' is a mixed bag of skits


In "The Prozac in Pandora's Box," the box contains more of a smorgasbord than merely pharmaceuticals. This cleverly titled and stylishly designed production at the Theatre Project is basically a variety show consisting of a half dozen skits on subjects ranging from Chernobyl to mythology.

Written by Laura Amlie, a student in Towson State University's graduate theater program, the show began as that program's first student production. And, parts of it have the earmarks of a collegiate effort, kind of like a graduate school version of "Saturday Night Live."

This is particularly true of a brief bit in which Gregorian-chanting monks tell dirty jokes, and of the opening skit, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", in which Chernobylites tout their burg as a vacation spot.

Like much of "SNL," both of these are over-written. One Christmas carol promoting Chernobyl's holiday glow would be enough, as would one monk-told dirty ditty.

By far the best skit is "Freefall," a fable about a little girl, told by Maria Broom, dressed as an African Griot. Stunningly performed by actors manipulating Bunraku-style rod puppets, the playlet also incorporates black lighting and live actors -- Julie Anderson as the slightly older little girl and Leslie Baker as the frightening and imaginatively costumed witch, Baba Yaga.

Most of "The Prozac in Pandora's Box," for that matter, looks better than it plays. The masks, puppets and projections are all first-rate, and costume designers William E. Crowther and Amlie have done an especially effective job with the Chernobyl mutants, who range from Pandora, a poor soul with a lobster-claw foot and cabbage hand, to Miss Chernobyl, who has three breasts, four feet and no hands.

The actors get carried away with accents, however. In an excessively pun-filled skit called "Myxthed Marriages," Amlie's Western twang and Donna Ward's syrupy Southern cadences obscure chunks of dialogue. And, in "Rats, Rags, and Riches," the unintelligible spoken sound track broadcast over the silent antics of Amlie and Baker's 18th century French charwomen renders the action meaningless.

The simplest skit, "Paco," is the most accessible. Created from transcripts of interviews with the homeless, this one-man skit stars a highly empathetic Marty Miklusek as a Baltimore street person.

Directed by Field Blauvelt, "The Prozac in Pandora's Box" displays some definite talent, but for the most part that talent needs to be honed and focused. I never figured out why a number of the intervals between scenes featured actors dressed as private eyes. Nor did I understand the reference to Prozac in the title. If anything, this energetic box seems filled with amphetamines. A little moderation would go a long way.

'The Prozac in Pandora's Box'

Where: Theatre, Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through Dec. 21

Tickets: $14

Call: (410) 752-8558

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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