Size Doesn’t Matter does what it sets out to do by providing a showcase for eager actors. Some of the parts outshine others, diminishing the work as a whole.
Fully Charged Productions, a producing group made up of alumni from DC’s National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, chose to prosent a program of seven short plays for Fringe this year. Short plays are tough nuts to crack. In a ten-minute play format, the writer is challenged with the economy of writing short while still offering substance. Actors in such tiny dramatic arcs have to peel away the truth of their characters but without the luxury of time. So it works sometimes and sometimes not.
Local writers – Renee Calarco, Zachary Fernebok, Mario Baldessari, and John Morogiello – provided them with an interesting lot of mini-dramas. These are gifted writers and they give the Fully Charged ensemble a gamut of interesting characters and stories to tell.
Morogiello’s Prologue gives a tip of the hat to the surrealistic Six Characters in Search of an Author in an entertaining curtain raiser where characters converse with the playwright and the imaginary fourth wall is broken. Taylor Robinson is the harried stage manager who must deal with technical glitches and manage the uppity playwright (Cristen Stephansky.) Joseph Michael Jones is the larger than life actor, while Amanda Haddock Duchemin is the director.
Morogiello also penned a much shorter piece, Fashion Specifics, in which two women – Taylor Robinson and Jocelyn Chis – prove that actions speak louder than words and people do not need complete sentences to communicate.
One of the longer pieces, Calarco’s Pounds Aweigh, offers an impressionistic portrait of MaryBeth (played with conviction by Sarah Pullen) and her struggles with weight loss and self-discovery. Perhaps due to the longer running time, this play was more satisfying as a complete and plotted drama than some of the others.
Size Doesn’t Matter – 7 Shorts by DC Playwrights
by Mario Baldessari, Renee Calarco, Zachary Fernebok and John Morogiello
at Sprenger – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and tickets
Among the three titles provided by Mario Baldessari, the two shortest pieces offered not much more than brief character studies. Cattle Call featured Jones and Duchemin at an audition. In Voire Dire Me, a lady judge (Ritland) has to deal with the lame excuses of defendant Daniel (Jamal Thomason.) The scenes were performed with gusto but there is only so much actors can do with such short pieces.
The true highlight of Size Doesn’t Matter was the pièce de résistance, Baldessari’s Intersections. Here the playwright not only flexed his muscles with a longer script, he provided a fantastic showcase for Michael Harris. Harris addresses an unseen subject about the gentrification taking place in key neighborhoods around DC. Through moving the riff-raff out and the upscale in, restaurants become bistros, and art galleries replace flop houses. “Theatres are nice, but the best one is getting a street car,” Harris offered. This might all sound tame, but the advice is not coming from a slick developer or real estate tycoon. Harris not only talked about 14th Street NW, he portrayed a working class guy who has worked his way up in the social order. It seems that 14th Street is giving advice to one of his fellow thoroughfares, 8th Street. “You remind me of me when I was young,” purrs Harris to his invisible protégée. “Full of crime and affordable housing.” We all got the joke and there were more where that came from. 14th Street works as a social satire and biting comedy for a gifted actor like Harris.
The short plays were directed by Ray Ficca who kept the staging simple and focused on the characters and storytelling which worked well in the Atlas Center’s Sprenger space.