How much play can you fit into ten minutes? More than you think. Source Festival 2009 opens with three groups of shorts, before expanding to one act and full length plays.
Reviewed by Steve McKnight
by David L. Williams and directed by Mitchell Hébert
The Craving, one of two standouts from Group A, features a couple looking to spice up their love live. The clever and quick dialogue between Melanie (an alluring Salma Qarnain) and Judd (John Tweel) leads to a misunderstanding over what Melanie proposes. Let’s just say her erotic “craving” involves a major societal taboo that results in nervous laughter from the audience. This edgy and funny work is well-crafted right down to the final ending button. I hope to see more of this playwright’s work in the DC area.
SEVEN LIES OF AN UNBELIEVER
by J.T. Rogers and directed by Chris Gallu
Seven Lies of an Unbeliever is a solo piece about a man who travels to Utah to investigate a certain famous religious denomination. He comes as a cynical secret agent, but finds himself entranced by a beautiful church guide, so much so that he agrees to view a religious recruitment movie. Jon Reynolds gives an enthusiastic rendition of a mildly amusing narrative work. Beyond the humor, though, the piece has little original to say and the lead character is not fleshed out.
by Jami Brandli and directed by Patrick Torres
Was involves an American soldier haunted by his war-time experience and a certain Iraqi victim. The basic concept is interesting and good performances are given by Daniel Yoerges as the Soldier and Theodore Hadjimichael as the Iraqi Man. The playwright is obviously talented, but pushes a little too hard for intensity. Both the back story and the outcome feel a little artificial. Still, it is a provocative work that will stay with audience members.
by C.S. Hanson and directed by Derek Goldman
Extremes opens with Celeste (Julia Brandeberry) on a tousled bed practically paralyzed by depression. Aggravating her mental condition is a recent separation from her husband Ben (John Bailey). Ben arrives so that she can accompany him to the funeral of a beloved former professor. The two reveal their back story and discuss their relationship in a realistic fashion while Ben helps her get cleaned and dressed. Director Derek Goldman helps draw nuanced and believable performances from the two actors. Extremes is an outstanding short work that evidences real skill and maturity by the playwright. The drama is so convincing and interesting that I wanted to know more about the characters and their relationship.
by Michael Elyanow and directed by Grady Weatherford
Game/Over is set in a video arcade where Nikhil (Arturo Tolentino) and Ray Ray (Kenneth J. Ray) contemplate their post-high school graduation future. Cleverly reinforcing the anxieties about that future is the opening of Zombie Zone shooter game, “Welcome to your worst nightmare.” Also hanging around the arcade is The Predator (played with creepy charm by John Geoffrion), who funds a few video games while putting the moves on Ray Ray. It’s an original work and Kenneth J. Ray gives a fine performance in revealing the hurt beneath his character’s surface. Nikhil’s story and the ending feel a little more forced.
THE CRUCIFIXION OF MOE AND IRA
by Lynn-Steven Johanson and directed by Shirley Serotsky
The Crucifixion of Moe and Ira is literally about two men hanging on crosses after being sentenced to crucifixion (and you thought you were having a bad day!). It seems when Moe the Clown (Matt Hicks) was telling jokes about the Romans, he had the misfortune to tell them in the presence of a Pharisee who was willing to translate. As a result, he winds up being executed next to Ira (Scott Ziegler), a Samaritan who was not good. To pass the time while waiting to die, the two men discuss their crimes and try to find comfort in humor. Some of the jokes are funny, although the work doesn’t come near eclipsing the inspired humor of the crucifixion scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. It’s a likeable way, however, to end a short play set.
by Daniel Talbott and directed by Jessica Lefkow
Two middle-aged ladies dine together in a restaurant located at The Shore. It seems that the women lead quiet yet unsatisfying lives. One of the women (Rena Cherry Brown) leads such a boring life that she is captivated by a note dropped by a teenage girl on the subway, imaging the circumstances surrounding its creation. As she discusses matters, her childhood friend (Marilyn Bennett) wonders how their lives reached this point. The drama is a nice character sketch well-played by the two actresses. While The Shore concludes with a poetic ending, it is not a very substantial work.
by Elizabeth Bartucci and directed by Gregg Henry
Poor Ann (Julie Garner) works up the courage to attend a social mixer in the basement of her synagogue only to meet up with her reincarnated former pet dog Steve. Steve (Joseph Thornhill) is having trouble adjusting to being newly human (things like language and standing on only two legs are a challenge). Steve chose to take advantage of the opportunity for reincarnation because of his loyal concern for Ann. Playwright Elizabeth Bartucci has found an interesting new premise for discussing relationship and life issues. While her revelations may not be particularly profound, Steve is a warmly humorous crowd pleaser.
by Laura Jacqmin and directed by Rahaleh Nassri
Ever wondered what thoughts might run through your head in the face of imminent death? Private Margaret Jensen (Brynn Tucker) experiences this situation when her parachute gets tangled in Airborne. This nineteen-year-old’s thoughts include her college plans, a relationship with a fellow soldier, and the training voiced by the omnipresent Narrator (Clay Teunis). It is a powerful work that feels authentic, although only a limited amount of material is covered. I would look forward to a more detailed treatment of a young African American woman in the military from this talented playwright.
by Stephen Faria and directed by KenYatta Rogers
Dave (Matthew Dewberry) is a lovable loser in a cheap suit who seeks to escape an angry horde of irritating relatives, so he moves to a different room in the funeral home and meets Cleo (Sara Waisenen). That’s the basic premise of Inheriting Cleo, but it only hints at the comic complications of this deeply satisfying work. Faria’s clever script may have the best funeral home humor since the Emmy Award® winning “Chuckles the Clown” episode of The Mary Tyler Moor Show. The incipient relationship is also nicely handled (“You just asked me out with a dead person in the room!”) with the able guiding hand of director KenYatta Rogers. Props also for the humorous contributions of Andrew Hawkins and Susan Holliday as the off-stage relatives. The charming Inheriting Cleo is a convincing example of how even a 10-minute play can tell a funny story while building an interesting relationship.
ARMED WITH PEANUT BUTTER
by Dana Lynn Formby and directed by Colin Hovde
It takes a couple of minutes for the dramatic reveal in Armed with Peanut Butter, but it is a potent moment. Clarice (Sara Barker) is institutionalized due to a war-time injury that makes her want to isolate herself from her husband Nick (Seth Vaughn) and her daughter Julie. Nick has to find a way to help Clarice fight through her bitterness and embrace life again, and making a peanut butter sandwich is part of that plan. Playwright Dana Lynn Formby has created a couple of authentic characters that deal with a difficult situation in a realistic manner. While the change has to occur a little quickly given the 10-minute play format, I would like to see work that gives the playwright more room to use her skill at character development.
TABLE FOR FOUR
by Steven Korbar and directed by Alexander Strain
Four students hide in the school library from a rampaging gunman in Table for Four. While it is a provocative situation, this play demonstrates the difficulty of trying to flesh out more than a couple of characters in a 10 minute play format. Director Alexander Strain contributes a lively staging, but the play does not contain any memorable perspective or message. Worse, the twist ending feels weak and inauthentic.