If you check it twice, you'll find out that Port playwright Ron Pullins' "The List" has re-emerged, strangely naughty and nice, making the leap from an award-winning short play to a creepy-but-compelling two-minute video. It was one of five pieces selected for Project Y's "Confessionals," a fundraiser for the New York-based theater company. It's a monologue by a compulsive list-maker who has committed a terrible crime, the worst you can possibly imagine. Her list gives her strength and helps her prepare — to deaden herself — so she can emerge from this moment of ugly truth, broken but alive. The company just posted the video online. You can watch it here.
Pullins is owner of Focus Publishing and author of "The Boss is Dead," a play that became a novel, and plays like "Enemy of the State" and Fringe Festival audience favorite "Movie Mogul," which he wrote with his wife, Leslie Powell. He says the idea for "The List" came to him years ago when he worked in a library and found a notebook that contained a collection of seemingly ordinary lists. But, as Pullins read it, he realized that "her list-building was a way of dealing with her oppression, and there was an underlying ... sense of her own despair and potential suicide."
It's a tough piece to stage — a psychologically tense look at an ego-shattered virtual automaton and a thought process that is absolutely horrific in its banal precision — all accomplished in a two-minute clip. Stage productions of the play — like last year's Boston Playwrights Platform Summer Festival — clock in at 10 to 15 minutes. In the longer performance you realize that she may not have actually done the deed. Yet. That she is steeling herself.
Pullins describes the play as "the saddest piece" he's ever written. The tightly controlled desperation "is almost too much to withstand. The willingness to sacrifice her children to achieve the obedience her husband requires is almost overwhelming in a ten-minute monologue," he says. "The two-minute version is very subtle. It's all in the eyes. What attracted me to it was the way that I as an audience member — or a reader — came to know her through disconnected detail. The watcher creates the story. And suddenly, when you think this might be comic — 'three bean salad' — the bottom falls out of this world, this woman is battered emotionally. She's gone to the edge. And then over the edge."
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: The Project Y video of "The List" stars Amanda Hilson, pictured. Other videos created for confessionals include " Urges" by Helen McTiernan, "Mary" by Boris Khaykin, "Boss" by Whitney Arcaro, and "Billy" by James Pachino.