Wayne Martens              Actor, Director, Producer


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Swan Song Revues

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Two One-act plays by

Anton Chekhov
Harmfulness of Tobacco
Swan Song
        Presented at FlynnSpace June 2004


The Reviews 

Burlington Free Press

Two Chekhov one-act plays, “The Harmfulness of Tobacco” and “Swan Song” were performed at the FlynnSpace. Starring in both plays is the impressively vigorous and immensely gifted 68-year old Off- Broadway veteran Wayne Martens. Both plays are poignant, profound and laugh-out loud funny.


Seven Days  By Pamela Polston  

  ….. In the case of Chekhov, it’s an incessant monolog: Harmfulness of Tobacco is a solo performance, and Swan Song is nearly so – a second actor shares the stage with Martens for a short while and doesn’t say much. A professional producer, director and Equity Actor originally from the Detroit area, Martens recently retired to Vermont and performed in a Stowe Theatre Guild production of The Fantasticks. The Chekhov evening marks his first dramatic appearance in the Queen City.  One hopes it will not be his last; the man takes to the stage like an otter to water, and just as energetically.

 His two characters are opposites in one sense: in Harmfulness of Tobacco he plays a henpecked instructor in his wife’s music school, seething with barely contained resentment that he wasted his life married to a shrew; in Swan Song, he’s a once great stage actor nearing the end of his career and lamenting that he never had a wife and family. Each in his own way, the men are losers --- lonely, distraught and unfulfilled. It is to Chekhov’s and Martens credit that they can be funny and that they win our sympathy even at their most pathetic.

 Martens allows his characters anger to erupt in futile sputters and nervous tics, while sharing funny-on–the-surface anecdotes from his sorry life. It’s a thoroughly engaging performance.

 The same can be said for his raging actor in Swan Song. Both the roles demand a full spectrum of emotional expression, which sometimes switches from manic glee to utter despair in a single line. The broad “vocabulary” of Martens’ face, body and voice is up to the challenge; he comes unglued before our very eyes, pulls himself together, crashes again.  Swan Song provides an extraordinary role for an actor and Martens inhabits it fully.  

 From the Aisle Seat by Dan Wolfe

 A new actor has presented his calling card to the local theatre world, a gentleman named Wayne Martens, whose obvious abilities shine in a production of two monodramas by the great Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov: Harmfulness of Tobacco and Swan Song.

 In tobacco we see a man unhappy in his marriage, because he has chosen a shrew for a wife; in Swan Song we meet a man of the theatre who has never married, and who, now in old age, has no one to care for him, no one even to know where he is if he doesn’t show up at home. Each of the plays has its own bittersweet flavor, and Martens shows us both in some detail. He is obviously a skilled actor, not just a reader of lines. In the second play he shows us depths of character that we are not quite prepared for, especially the anger. It is a subtly delineated job, and it stands head and shoulders over Tobacco.

  Martens added to the strength of the evening by reading – ala Spalding Gray – from his autobiography. It was more than a simple reading, however, and it was very funny and interesting at the same time.

 The show was mounted not simply as a calling card for Martens. It was also a benefit for the Catalyst Theatre Company.

I will look forward to seeing Martens in the future, as he becomes noted by other producers and directors. Were I in their shoes, I would begin to look for properties in which this talented actor could shine. 

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