A man named Rich enters his bathroom and wants some privacy, but it is not to be.
Three oddly offbeat creatures appear on the scene, sighing about colorful auras, investigating his toothpaste and trying to photograph things he’d rather flush away.
“We don’t have any money,” one will cheerfully tell him, dashing his hope that maybe they want to make an offer on the house.
“Who the hell are you?” an obviously exasperated Rich will growl.
If you’d like to puzzle out the identity of these strange visitors for yourself — and witness several other comic or dramatic scenes that happen to be set in lavatories, restrooms or whatever else you might call le salle de bains — you will have a chance this weekend through June 29 at the Downtown Arts building on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Here, Gaslight Theatre is presenting “Playroom: Bathroom; An Evening of One-Act Plays by Regional Authors.”
The brainchild of Gaslight’s Matthew S. Hinton, the Playroom series opened last year with a collection of seven plays, all set in the kitchen. This year, the action in eight one-acts is centered in, on and around a sink, toilet and old-fashioned tub set up on a second-floor stage at Downtown Arts.
Yes, the Gaslight folks maneuvered the heavy claw-foot tub up the stairs to a space where Hinton found some time before rehearsals to climb into that “cast-iron cradle” and wax philosophical about bathrooms in general.
Calling that necessary room “a naked place,” he blogged, “It is where we are at our must vulnerable — where we judge ourselves, examine our eyes in the silver glass and stick out our tongue in search of the green spots. It is where we battle black cavities of secrets and hide bottles of tiny white escape. We find our checkered past staring back at us from the mold in the corner, patterned into the floor.”
Speaking of mold the title character in “Rich’s Well Made,” created by playwright Hinton and played by actor Nick Klem, does have some sort of fungus growing in his bathroom, which seems to delight and intrigue his strange visitors in one of the lighter bathroom moments.
Other one-acts in the series have darker subject matter, such as a parent’s alcoholism in Lori Myers’ “Mirror, Mirror.”
“I’m fed up with it. I want a real mom,” said Olivia Carvallo of Kingston, who portrays a teenage daughter who confronts her intoxicated mother.
“She finds me in an alcoholic state, not for the first time,” said Cathy Alaimo of Wilkes-Barre, who plays the mom.
As the action transitions from one short play to the next, the same sink/tub/toilet trio represent bathrooms as diverse as the facilities at a bed and breakfast, at a stress-reduction clinic and, of course, inside a family home, where angry fists pound on the door and an angry voice declares someone has been in there long enough.
“This is a little more daring (than last year’s kitchen-based plays), a little more exposed,” Hinton said.
None of the actors seems to be blushing over the setting or the subject matter, but in real life, Alaimo said, she appreciates privacy. “If I go into a public restroom with friends, I don’t want to call over the stalls (to have a conversation),” she said.
Directing duties for the eight short plays are shared by David Reynolds, Brandi George and Hinton, who has put some thought into describing their efforts of all three.
“I take in David’s direction and watch for reactions. It is like finding a man filing his toenails with his teeth – acrobatic, full of surprise and skill and experience. I eavesdrop on Brandi and her cast; it is graceful and thoughtful – the hum of a beautiful woman as she powders and pencils herself, a hint of fragrance from the next room.
“I wonder what surprises will come from my own direction,” Hinton wrote. “If I will try to fuse my soap-sliver-notes to make a whole bar or else forget to buy more toilet paper.”