<i>Funhouse/Two Way Mirror/Blithe Spirit</i> | Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow

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The Independent Culture

Illusion and reality, the blurring of divisions between the two, and the question of choice as to which we perceive or inhabit, form the loose linking thread between these first three productions in the Citizens' autumn season.

Illusion and reality, the blurring of divisions between the two, and the question of choice as to which we perceive or inhabit, form the loose linking thread between these first three productions in the Citizens' autumn season.

For the dozen or so characters successively portrayed by Stephen Scott in Eric Bogosian's Funhouse, staged in the suitably claustrophobic setting of the tiny Stalls Studio, the surreally fractured, contradiction-riven nature of contemporary American life more or less forces the donning of self-defensive psychological blinkers.

The forms these take range far and wide through the spectrum between (so-called) sanity and madness, from the opening character's desire, as embodied by his head-to-foot black rubber bodysuit, for the safety of total concealment and isolation, to a tough-talking New Yorker's insistence on the overriding primacy of home and family. Among the others we encounter are a porn-joint john having sex through a hole in a door, a transvestite prostitute promising fantasy fulfilment in the style of a revivalist preacher, and a man so hooked on TV and take-out food that he sees no good reason to leave his house at all.

Each snapshot-like scenario, played out in a room entirely papered in dollar bills, possesses at least a degree of internal logic, but it's a logic that depends on the characters' failure, or refusal, to look within or without and make connections with others.

Played by Scott with compelling, tautly controlled intensity, Bogosian's blackly comic invective thus relays an underlying, old-fashioned plea for empathy as the starting-point for healing America's psychic and social wounds.

As its title suggests, Arthur Miller's dramatic diptych Two Way Mirror interrogates notions of truth and fiction, as perceived or constructed both by his characters and by the audience. The first of its paired two-handers, Some Kind of Love Story, depicts Tom, an ex-cop turned private detective, trying to winkle information out of his emotionally disturbed sometime lover Angela, who claims to hold the key to a case that's been haunting him for years. In the second, Elegy For a Lady, an older married man visits a boutique seeking a gift for his mistress, whom he believes to be dying, and finds the shop's owner displaying an unexpected (or is it?) insight into his situation.

Though both are exploring similar conceptual or philosophical ground, the two pieces each take a markedly different dramatic route. The first lays its ground in vividly rendered characterisation, in order gradually to float its questions regarding Tom and Angela's veracity and degrees of symbiotic self-delusion, while the second is a more formal, elegantly stylised disquisition on the elements of deception and concealment involved in the couple's relationship.

Despite the contrast, both pieces are realised by Anne Marie Timoney and Tristram Wymark with a minutely modulated depth and poise to match that of Miller's teasing, precisely configured dialogue.

In contrast again, Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit sees the invasion of the real by the supposedly unreal, or the seen by the unseen, being staged with primarily playful intent, as the urbane novelist Charles is revisited by the ghost of his dead first wife Elvira, the latter being jealously hellbent on stirring up trouble in his second marriage.

The comic possibilities of this situation - Elvira being invisible to everyone but Charles - are mined with equal relish and panache by Philip Prowse's visually splendid production, all the players sure-footedly striking the right note of witty semi-caricature.

At the same time, this adroitness of pitch lends the characters sufficient sympathetic substance to bring out the play's meatier undertones, in its dissection of marital relationships, as allegiances shift and agendas gradually become apparent, creating a thoroughly satisfying blend of froth and bite.

To 7 Oct (0141-429 0022)

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