Saved or Destroyed

Local Arts Reviews

Saved or Destroyed:

Isn't She Lovely?

Dougherty Arts Center, through April 5

Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min

Saved or Destroyed made me laugh, think, and even marvel at the beauty of it all.

R. Bryan Peterson anchors the Mainline Theater Project production well as the familiar narrator, Vincent. When the floodlights go up, Vincent and the other actors are free like Pirandello's characters without an author; when the lights go down, they must act out a family love affair. In his opening lines, Vincent peels the skin off the drama, telling the audience they came to the theatre to see people "more troubled than yourselves." He introduces himself as an actor who, like the play's author, Harry Kondoleon, has never been a star: "You probably have not seen me in regional productions all over the country," he says. His film appearances have amounted to a handful of popcorn.

In the family storyline, Vincent makes his cousin Karin (Marisa Pisano) pregnant during a holiday fling under the watchful eye of Karin's adopted mother, Anne (Natalie George). Christopher Moore is brilliant as Karin's adopted father, Ivan, who is never happy unless he is irate. "Did you have serious sex with my daughter?" he shouts. Josh Painting, playing Ivan's estranged brother, and Elissa Linares, as his wife, Vincent's über-mother, have an extremely convincing fight about their second-class status: "It's not about things, though things cushion the fall." From relatively standard fare, the story swerves into ugly realism as Karin has an abortion, then two miscarriages.

When Kondoleon wrote Saved or Destroyed in 1994, he knew he was dying, and death clashes with birth throughout his last script. The program states that Kondoleon reeled off the script in three weeks, hence the raw quality of sublime lines like: "The past is already halfway into make-believe."

Much experimental theatre has the same effect on me as chemistry class: It leaves me disoriented and cold. Director Jeremy Sexton's style of innovation is warmer. From the actors' dramatic entrance to their final lineup, the surprises come in a natural way. Sexton yields power from simple symbols like a door downstage that opens and closes or the "creator" who communicates through flashing lights (kudos to the lighting crew led by Julie Buchanan and Kim Cowan). The dust on the characters' costumes emphasizes the fact that they are costumes without rubbing it in.

The acting is not only excellent, but it shows how people pop in and out of character with the lights. In one highlight George and Peterson synchronize their voices in a hilarious credo for poor actors. "I need the money," goes the refrain. And when they become stars, they will hang with the other "scintillators," have "oodles of love affairs," go to Ibiza, and have happy children, or at least children who can find publishers for their "bitter rage memoirs."

Rendering these dreams and truths so faithfully, the Mainline Theater Project keeps Kondoleon's beautiful creation alive.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Rob Curran
Holy Cross Sucks!
Local Arts Reviews

May 23, 2003

"Pertaining to Painting"
Local Arts Reviews

Dec. 27, 2002


Saved or Destroyed, Harry Kondoleon, Mainline Theater Project, Jeremy Sexton, R. Bryan Peterson, Marisa Pisano, Natalie George, Christopher Moore, Josh Painting, Elissa Linares, Julie Buchanan, Kim Cowan

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle