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Arms and the Woman: Hope Nicora stars as a dysfunctional human in love in Lamp Shade Productions' "The Woolgatherer."

Photo by Greg Pio

Two black sheep find warmth, comfort and joy by getting under each other's skin

By Sarah Phelan

WILLIAM Mastrosimone's The Woolgatherer is a truly hysterical play, in both the funny and the crazy sense of the word. Set in South Philadelphia, this award-winning "dram-edy" revolves around Rose and Cliff, two half-crazy people searching for love in a world gone mad.

Hope Nicora is fabulous as the hypersensitive Rose, as nervous and flighty as the long-legged birds she loves to watch at the zoo. And though she's haunted by her past and obsessed by destruction, Rose has compassion for everything--from the disused chair she rescued from the curbside to the dead cactus she won't throw out, because, as she says hopefully, "You never know."

Even as Rose works behind the candy counter of the five-and-dime, she dreams of true love and how she'll meet a man one day who doesn't smoke, drink, curse or make fun of her, a guy "with a smile you can hang onto," someone she can speak to "without words."

Instead, she encounters the fast-talking, wise-cracking Cliff, a transcontinental truck driver waiting for his rig to be repaired, who wanders into her store looking for some wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kinda action. Richard Saldavia is perfect as this beer-swilling, wannabe parachute jumper who mocks Rose, her dilapidated apartment and her antiquated value system, even as he tries to seduce her.

Refusing to swallow "wholesale pigshit about true love," Cliff cynically maintains that love is a big check book and alimony payments. And when Rose tells him a tragic bird story, he callously replies with a tale of slowing down to cheer on a chicken who was escaping from an adjacent truck, only to see it fall and be crushed-- "red-white-red-white"--under his own truck's wheels.

Yet despite their seeming incompatibility, this odd couple are drawn together both by their mutual fear of commitment and by a longing for love. For while Cliff is perplexed by Rose's anachronistic oversensitivity and her love of poetry, he senses he can trust her. And while Rose is repelled by Cliff's vulgarity, she respects his desire for "life before death" and his way of laughing off the everyday tragedies.

Nicora and Saldavia got well-deserved standing ovations for their inspired performances on opening night of this two-act, 90-minute show, which positively flies by under Cynthia Parks' skilled direction. But watch out! There are plenty of skeletons in the closet.

The Woolgatherer, presented by Lamp Shade Productions, directed by Cynthia Parks, and featuring Hope Nicora and Richard Saldavia, plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8 pm) through March 15 at Actor's Theatre, 1001 Center St., SC, (427-8293).Tickets cost $10.

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From the March 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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