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'Undraped' uncovers local talent 

John Haman and I arrived at Arkansas Business about a week apart in July 1992. In hindsight, one may wonder what either of us was doing there.

Haman had already involved himself in the theater in college, and he took on some demanding rolls at the daring local Weekend Theater while working the day job as a business reporter. We both enjoyed similar tastes in music, but my exposure to and appreciation of theater arts pretty much didn’t come until I arrived in this job, in May 1999.

I kept suggesting to Haman, who also spent some time here at this paper, that Broadway, or someplace in that vicinity, might be a more suitable endeavor. Meanwhile Haman challenged me, like he was determined himself to do, to write a screenplay.

My best work was helping with an inner-office satire. His best work to this point is now on stage at the Weekend Theater, and last Friday it played to nearly a full house.

Don’t miss “Undraped,” and not just because a friend of mine is the playwright. And don’t go knowing there’s some backside nudity on the stage.

Go for some of that witty dialogue Haman uses among the five characters, not to mention some of the smart, subtler stuff that doesn’t just slap you in the face. Haman juxtaposes humorous lines against sometimes painful drama to illustrate a series of relationships, the main one being between a slumping painter, Joseph Wainwright, and his demanding wife, Margaret.

Go, too, to see one of the best actresses I’ve seen grace any of the local stages. Sarah Bragg, who came here from Mississippi, plays Elsa, a model whom the painter hires. She’s equal parts innocent, vulnerable, delicate and charming. She’s willing to play the painter’s games as long as he keeps the artwork to himself.

Bragg is supported quite well by the show’s other stars: the always-all-around-good Duane Jackson as the somewhat manic painter, and his wife, played by another local up-and-comer, Samantha Porter, as well as Thomas McLeod as Wainwright’s friend and confident Richard. But the actor who steals at least the first 10 minutes and may need more time toward the finish is Tom Crone as art buyer Martin Fairview. The play has been tweaked for a couple of years, read at Hendrix College (which Haman attended) and in Nebraska, and if one plot point became obvious because of Crone’s acting, it’s that Fairview needs to join the other four actors on stage near the close.

Director Alan Douglas has a strong hand on the play. The antique set is as impressive as we’ve seen at the Weekend Theater. The play moves quickly, with a 45-minute first act and a 40-minute second.

As for Bragg, she and Haman and Kathryn Pryor and other sometimes regular Weekend Theater actors will perform in Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion” in May. For the next two weekends, you can see “Undraped,” but I have a feeling it won’t be the last time it’s staged, and not just in Arkansas.

Call 374-3761 for reservations.

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