The best advice for viewing Ron Pullins’ new play is don’t over-think it, just sit back and let it wash over you without getting caught up in the drama about what it’s all “about,” because there’s a lot going on in “Bicycle. Woman,” which gets its first spin around the literary block next week at the North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative. The full-length piece has three competing story lines, three possibilities about what is actually happening: Could be two strangers, a guy and a girl collide while riding bicycles. Or maybe they’re out riding together and grabbed by a couple of rightish thugs who hassle them because they’re obviously pinkos. Or maybe it’s just a guy trying to write a story and a woman who just wants to get him between the sheets. It’s conflates the political and psychological, it’s a medieval miracle play with a taste of commedia dell'arte, where “the ‘reality’ is floating somewhere between the competing story lines,” according to the playwright. He pauses. “You know,” he says. “I’m probably the worst person in the world to tell you what it’s about.”
Well, fine. Maybe Tim Diering, the guy directing the play, can fill in the blanks. Yeah, he’ll give it a shot.
“Ron's new play is a somewhat surreal vision,” says Diering, “part hell, part distopian dream, where writers are forced to write confessions for crimes they can't remember, and the threat of state-enforced violence is a constant hanging in the air. It reminds me of Tennessee Williams' play ‘Camino Real,’ where big ideas are addressed in short, absurd, almost fantastic dream-like scenes. It's a very interesting script, and a challenge to find just the right tone for the piece. It should be fun.”
Pullins is the 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 started writing “Woman. Bicycle.” three years ago — or, at least, that’s when the Merrimac Street playwright penned “Pemberton,” one of the shorts that, inadvertently, served as a study for “Woman. Bicycle.” A finalist in Cell Theaters’ Short Works Festival in New Mexico that was workshopped last year at the Theatre in Higher Education Conference play development series last year in Los Angeles, “Pemberton” looks at the rightist political turmoil in Argentina in the ’70s, a period speaking “to what’s happening around the world today, reminding us of power the state holds over all of us,” says Pullins.
The LA conference also became a springboard for the new piece, thanks to comments from one of the participants, who told Pullins that he had no idea what the play was about and had pretty much abandoned any hope of exegesis, of understanding. He gave up and decided to sit back and just watch it — and that’s when he got it.
“It’s a different kind of play, it fits my brain pattern, I guess,” says the Port playwright, who made his acting — well, reading, actually — debut last year during a North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative production of his play “The Dollartorium.” It’s not a play about something as much as it’s about a full experience. The idea is to allow the audience to enter into the experience and not just sit there and observe. It’s is seductive enough.
The North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative is a local play development series, essentially staged readings. The focus is on the play, not the production. The playwright gets to hear the words in a live setting and see how prospective audiences will react.
“It’s really interesting to see how people respond and get a glimpse of why they respond this way,” Pullins says, ”to see what works and what doesn’t.”
In any event, it can't possibly be as strange as "The Object," his quirky 10-minute play about a strange and fascinating — and never specifically described — thing first brought to life two years ago in "Fall Shorts."
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative will present a staged reading of “Woman. Bicycle.” by Port playwright Ron Pullins at 10 a.m. March 12 at the Actors Studio, located in the Tannery, 50 Water St. Mill #1, Studio #5. The show will be directed by Tim Diering. Tickets are $7. Reservations are recommended. For more information, call 978.465.1229 or log onto the studio’s Web.