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Glenda Frank

by A. D. Penedo.
Directed by Christopher Windom for Flying Squirrel Theatricals as part of the 15th annual New York International Fringe Festival
Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal St., NYC.
Aug. 13-28 at varying hours.
Seats: $15. Tickets and information at http://www.fringenyc.org; 866.468.7619, at the theatre half an hour before showtime, or FringeCENTRAL, 45 Bleecker Street (at Lafayette)

If you are hungry for a little mystery and contemporary confrontations, weary of clichéd romances and pedestrian dialogue -- "Three Times She Knocked" by A. D. Penedo will have you standing and cheering -- or at least clapping until your hands hurt. It's set mostly in an office with one ergonomic chair. And with each knock the conversation between Eric, a successful executive, and Tara, the beautiful young professional, becomes less and less business-like. The last scene is set in prison.

Eric (Bob D'Haene), who is also the narrator, is annoying. He's too loud, too intense, too in-your-face. But there's a reason, and as that reason is made clear, Bob D'Haene turns down the wattage and slides into a most impressive performance. Tara (Isabel Richardson) is both a distinctive personality and an everywoman. Recently married, she is also new to the job and anxious to make friends with everyone. But she is no yes-woman. She calls him on his silences and his evasions. That's so 90s, she tells Eric; no one thinks that way any more. This is like a fifth-grade silent treatment, she observes. She's direct and respectful, but she knocks with a purpose. And she is unpredictable in her choices.

Her first visit to Eric is political. He has been avoiding her, canceling lunch dates if she has also been invited, walking the other way when he sees her in the hallway. (He calls this his OTAI -- Tara-avoidance -- initiative.) But she opens with a friendlier concern: she needs his advice. May she sit in his chair because she is considering ordering one for her office? No, he says. Not with the door open, not even if they wheel the chair into the hall. As for why he has been dodging her, well, he has a hypothetic friend in another firm named Aaron, and Aaron is prone to infatuations. And the conversation ends.

Her second visit is another attempt to make peace. He opens up to her with stories about Aaron and Stephanie. Then, pushing her away, he informs her that her blouse is inappropriate for the workplace. Both of them toy with threats of visiting HR (Human Resources). They battle, they share, they bring their relationship to new, unexpected planes. Eric's language becomes poetic , sensual, erotic. Tara seems mesmerized.

The third visit has two, maybe even three surprises -- surprises that are reminiscent of "The Silence of the Lambs." "Three Times She Knocked" becomes a drama about obsession and seduction. It's about temporal and eternal love, jealousy and betrayal. It's a little gem of a play, well-performed and directed by Christopher Windom, and deserving a second life beyond the 15th annual New York International Fringe Festival.


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