5 Locks 5 Keys

5 Locks 5 Keys at Our House Cultural Center


The mysterious 5 locks 5 keys from the even more mysterious N1 Theatre premiere at Philly’s Fringe Fest. 

When playwright-director Dennis Moritz presents an evening of “consciousness collapsing” short plays – Uncle, Blues in a Buick and Love Luv – through the auspices of the Philly/NYC-based N1 Theatre group and the 2023 Fringe Festival (Our House Culture Center, September 14 – September 17), there is no lack of intrigue or existential dilemma when it comes to this triple premiere. N1’s founding artistic director Robert Craig Baum, actor Beverly Gunn, and author Dennis Moritz spoke of that which unites Uncle, Love Luv and Blues in a Buick under the tag, 5 locks, 5 keys and for the N1 banner.

After commenting how the evening’s 5 locks title and framework comes from a line within Blues in a Buick (“It will be up to audiences to determine its meaning”), Baum states that without mystery, without a sense of adventure, “I’m not sure I would be a writer, director, or producer,” he said. “Working with Dennis and our ensemble allows me to assemble shows that bring audiences inside our world. A refuge, if you will, from the normal, the endlessly chaotic, the lies, the exhausting lies of American politics. No one writes like Dennis; no one brings poetry and theatre and an almost William Burrough’s like matter-of-fact literary embrace of the many different zones that make up our living and creating lives.”

The 2023 Philly Fringe is something of a homecoming for Moritz and the N1 project, having worked in the Germantown and Mount Airy area for years (decades in the case of Dennis’ poetry and theatre work), and “continuing to shape the performances together as a unit,” said Baum. “There, it was a true “lab” of deep reading, reflection, and collaboration. Our current ensemble meets and exceeds these watermark performances. Talking about 2023 N1 actors such as Beverly Gunn, Paul Pirozzi (aka Wharton Track), Effie Kammer, and Daralyse Lyons, Baum is in awe of his actors.

As for the company, N1 started online back in September 2011 as part of heated conversations centered on a very important question: How do we write and perform 9/11?

This is strangest as our conversation for this dosage MAGAZINE piece – without me knowing in advance – occurred on September 11, 2023.

“On the tenth anniversary FB group, I noticed Dennis Moritz’s name,” said Baum. “I also noticed how we were alone in our willingness to take a chance and say: it will be difficult, but presenting or representing 9/11 through personal stories, maybe even works of mourning, will encourage others to participate. I mostly remember refreshing my browser for days, waiting for a response from the hundreds of participants. Somewhere between the “crickets” was a lone voice. It was Dennis writing thoughtful, provocative, funny, relentless paragraphs.”

For Beverly Gunn, the highly praised actor at the heart of the poetic maelstrom that is 5 locks 5 keys, and Uncle in particular, she calls the N1’s collective Moritz plays narrative, expository, and descriptive. 

Blues in a Buick is a narrative, a story of two lovers who are not totally in it for love but for what each can get from the other by way of threats and blackmail, a mental tug of war played by Effie Kammer and Paul Prozi.  Love Luv is a descriptive play where the character tells of her tries and tribulations living in a former manufacturing town, played by Daralyse Lyons. And then there is Uncle. Uncle has had a breakdown caused by her acute sense of the imbalance of the world. She sees ho unjust the world is and how there is no protection from the one thing that represents freedom, justice, equality, safety, and protection for all… our flag, our government. She sees how corruption has become the norm and there is no soul left in this capitalist world, that what you see is not what is; that you have to look beneath the veil of perfection, security, and safety to be woke – to know what is real from what is a mirage. Uncle calls her audience to think, to question what they see, feel, and hear; to dig a little deeper and not rely on the powers that be to lead you blindly, to not be so complacent nor to accept things at face value. Uncle is about the people who fall between the cracks that no one sees or cares about. Uncle is about how our government looks after us, how it falls short of its promises. I found this piece to be extremely rich in texture, in language, in the way you sense the meaning behind the words. It is profound. It is almost impossible to describe. The piece is every shifting and it builds and builds until. It is one of those pieces where it captivates you from the beginning to end. You must listen closely to keep up. It is not a passive play. There is so much nuance in this piece that I as an actor have to dig deep to convey the meaning Mr. Dennis Moritz sensed in his bones which poured out onto the pages. I am honored to play the very challenging character, Uncle.”

5 Locks 5 Keys
Writer and Director, Dennis Moritz

Where thoughtful, provocative, funny, relentless paragraphs are concerned, Moritz states, that unites these three plays so seamlessly comes down to “the DNA of the USA.”

Art as research. Lifting the lid, looking below the surface. Seeing through different magnifiers that emphasize different aspects, show different elements of a picture. In the last few days, I’ve been thinking of Picasso’s Guernica in relationship to these plays. We know these are people who are bombed. Innocents attacked. The horror is made immediate as shapes are reconfigured and flattened, changed in proportion. Isn’t that what artists always do? The familiar gets looked at with new insight.”

As to the genesis of each of these plays within 5 locks 5 keys, Moritz offers Dosage a bold paragraph on each production’s genesis in one big, prose-like bang.

Uncle was written in the early 1990s. There have been perhaps ten different productions. Mainstage and improvised spaces. Freedom Theater did it on its main stage. Robert Christoph directed Kareem Carpenter, inhabiting the role as only his extraordinary talent could. Powerful, artistically realized. Thieves Theater. BACA Downtown. Painted Bride. Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. New Zealand, LA., NYC, Philly. Lee Richardson did Uncle at Imperfect Gallery in Germantown four years ago. Lee, a founder of Crossroads Theater, one of the few LORT African American Theaters. Lee did it at age 70, a Shaman invoking other dimensions, a visitation. Robert Craig Baum the director/medium helped Lee, goading/directing, supportively attending. Beverly Gunn’s rendering has been an education to me as I facilitated her approach. In a way the purest Uncle. A dramatic exploration of text, at times phrase by phrase, dramatic incident by dramatic incident. Her quick changes, her pivots, can be activated by a string of three or four words. It is in ways a map of my preoccupations and approach. When Covid hit Robert Craig Baum, my partner for over ten years, would not risk live in person directing, his immediate family being too vulnerable. My Covid different from his and most others. No director, no producer, I have been a writer solely since the beginning of my theater work. Fifty years back. I am laughing. Felt, after talking with Lee Richardson, four intense hours minimum every day. Well, ok, maybe I can talk to actors without shutting them down. Dara Lyons and I began this iteration. Love Luv was a wonderful collaboration. Guess I directed her, a force of nature, so my directing began. Love Luv a new work. It refracts Muncie IN, through the personality of Shel, a wonderful dramatic personality I met in Muncie at the 12th Street Diner. Muncie IN, once an industrial center for the Big Three Automakers was hollowed out twenty years ago, when they left. Love Luv is a refraction through Shel’s personality. Love Luv is a riff on Shel’s stories. Research through a refraction. Blues in a Buick started as fascination and enjoyment, Film Noir and 1940s, 1950s Hollywood acting styles. Cagney, Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson. Those stylized big personalities. Big bad mobster paired with a moll with an artist’s interior life. Paul PIrozzi and Effie Kammer inspired this choice of play. Paul exceeds life-size in many ways. His love of Classic Hollywood might be encyclopedic. Effie’s flinty, unflinching, showing of sensitivities, well, how hard is that. Damn damn talented. Contrast of strong personalities. Very different personalities. Effie’s character is always accurate, no matter the looming power of Charlie’s physical presence.”

Like Moritz said at the top, it’s “USA DNA” all the way.

5 Locks 5 Keys

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