Emotional vulnerability triggers an immediate self-protective response, the natural instinct to withdraw from imminent confrontation. Playwright Tom Anselmo tackles this dilemma in a trio of plays - “Matt & Sara,” “The Voices,” and “Penny” - each revealing another face of such exposure and the character’s individual reactions to changing circumstances.
Each play focuses on a confrontation and its resolution, either addressing a conflict or achieving a comfort level that is less threatening for the character. “In Matt & Sara,” a handsome young man deals with his stuttering “condition” by means of behavior modification, believing his method will lead to healing, or at least a diminishing of his symptoms.
In the course of his visit to a resort, Matt meets Sara with her sister and aunt, identifying qualities in Sara that infer a sympathetic heart. Although they have a few awkward moments, the two overcome their initial trepidation, moving forward in the relationship.
Cathy, a young married woman, is the focus of “The Voices.” Cathy has guilty knowledge of her best friend’s current lover, unsure whether to tell the friend her suspicions and possibly endanger the friendship. After a short conversation, Cathy realizes her friend is consciously choosing to ignore the obvious, clinging to foolish romantic notions. The ensuing test of Cathy’s marriage trumps the value of the women’s friendship, redefining the parameters of both.
“Penny” is by far the most satisfying of the three plays. The wife of a gambler, Penny is visiting her sister-in-law, Gail, in hopes of borrowing money to cover her husband’s debts. Long aware of her brother’s gambling addiction, Gail is not receptive to Penny’s pleas, confronting Penny with the ugly truths she has chosen to avoid, her co-conspiracy in her husband’s gambling problem and the denial of the situation.
Penny is far from prepared to break the cycle of addiction, but Gail is refreshingly candid, unflinching in the face of discomfort: “I’m having trouble holding back what I want to say; you’re having trouble putting a muzzle over my mouth.”
With an acute awareness of the complexities of the most ordinary occurrences, Anselmo’s characters struggle to rise above their inadequacies, embracing uncomfortable truths with the courage required.