SQUEEZE BOX written and performed by Ann Randolph, directed by Alan Bailey. Presented by Alley Theatre Workshop, Michael Kash, Audrey Nesbitt and Making Faces at the Alley Theatre Workshop (12 Ossington). Runs to March 12, Wednesday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 8 and 10 pm. $20, stu $15. 416-703-9211. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Though faith and self-esteem power a person internally, sometimes it takes an external impetus to bring someone to life - or, in the case of Squeeze Box 's central character, back to life.
Writer/performer Ann Randolph 's one-woman show follows Ann, that figure, through the ups and downs of working in "a homeless shelter for mentally ill women." Always trying to be an optimist but finding she can't, Ann finally reaches a watershed in her professional and personal life and takes off to find happiness, only to discover that she can't travel far from her sensitive roots.
Ann's life is filled with helping others, whether she's working the graveyard shift at the shelter or driving chronic schizophrenics on road trips. But she also wants an active sex life, and thinks she's found it with Harold, an accordion-playing musician who's a sensual lover but an emotional Johnny One-Note. There's trouble when she tries to connect her work life and her love life.
Playing multiple characters, Randolph brings energy, a mobile face and a strong presence to the 75-minute show, though some of her creations are more sharply drawn than others. Among the most successful are Shoshana, a vapid, self-involved friend whose life is changed by each Hollywood film she sees, and Julie, a Christian co-worker whose lack of empathy for the shelter residents doesn't hinder her leading them in a self-esteem group.
The best scene is a confrontation between Julie - whose idea of being homeless is not being able to find the keys to her vacation house - and Brandy, a paranoid schizophrenic who takes delight in puncturing Julie's protective bubble.
The script meanders at times as Ann loses and then tries to regain faith in herself and others, and there's a touch of the saccharine feel-good here and there. But there's also lots of comedy in a show that sometimes has the feel of stand-up; it's good that Randolph can laugh at her own persona as well as those of the other characters.