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November 8, 2008     Publication:   The Kansas City Star

Beneath the malodorous world of Ron Simonian's plays -- ghastly subsets populated by pimps, hookers, johns, strippers, killers and sleazy politicians -- are legitimate questions about ethics. At least that's what I took away from "Liquid Morality," a trio of one-acts directed by the playwright. When Simonian is good, he's very, very good. When he loses his way, which he does at times, the work suffers from a lack of clarity and specificity. Nobody's writing plays quite like the three onstage at the Unicorn Theatre. The sheer audacity of the subject matter makes them interesting. Simonian's rapid-fire dialogue holds our attention, and the broad performing styles of his actors contribute to a unique theatergoing experience. The opener is "At the Feet of Doves," a much shorter version of a play staged at the Unicorn several years ago. In it two professional killers (Matt Rapport and Scott Cordes) are waiting for a phone call that will tell them what to do with the unconscious man (Tom Moriarty) at their feet. As they wait, they debate civil liberties, the merits and demerits of the ACLU and sex. The inherently preposterous conceit is naturally funny, and Rapport and Cordes play off each other skillfully. "The Daily Grind" is set in the back room of a strip club where the owner (Moriarty) meets with a state senator (Dean Vivian), who explains that a born-again politician in the statehouse wants to shut his kind of business down. They struggle to come up with a counter-argument to rationalize protecting all-nude dancing and hit on the notion that stripping is an avenue to female independence in a sexist world. The closer, and the best of the three, is "The Sting of Love," a very funny series of plot reversals about a group of people thrown together on a police van after being busted for soliciting sex from a police decoy.Moriarty and Cordes (both delivering remarkable performances) are among them, as are Vivian and Lauren Lubow (the only woman on the bus). Moriarty is a man with anger issues trying to control himself. Cordes thinks he made a real connection with the decoy. Vivian insists he only wanted to talk to the presumed hooker. Peter Weber is to be married but is upset because his bride may be a lesbian. And Lubow is the bride who, indeed, is a lesbian but still loves her fiancé. Simonian's talent is self-evident, but these actors bring a lot to the table. Without their obvious commitment to the material, this might have been little more than a strange little sideshow. But they accentuate the best qualities of Simonian's craftsmanship and make a convincing argument he's a writer to keep an eye on. TODAY AND SUNDAY "Liquid Morality" will be performed at 8:30 tonight and at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Unicorn Theatre's Jerome Stage, 3828 Main. 816-531-PLAY Kansas City Star, The (MO) Date: November 8, 2008 Page: F3 Copyright (c) 2008 The Kansas City Star

Solid cast gives weight to Unicorn's 'Liquid Morality': News
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