On a triangular tract of land snug behind a line of row-houses, Northeast DC harbors a secret Garden of Eden—a landscape flush with the fruits of the earth. Roma tomatoes. Lavender. Chard. Thyme.
And time is a funny thing. “There’s never enough of it or there is too much,” says Dexter Hamlett as a broken Dad dealing with family troubles in “Days Gone Bye*,” one of five vignettes in the Tiny House Plays.
Pinky Swear Productions and Boneyard Studios—a community of mobile tiny houses founded in 2012 as part of a post recession movement by people eager to reduce their carbon footprint and debt—have created a truly immersive, innovative site-specific theatre experience for audiences.
Featuring five distinct stories by six playwrights, the plays are set inside the innovative Boneyard compound (the Pera, Matchbox, and Minim houses plus one storage shed and a patio and garden all on less than an acre of land). All are performed five times during each showing. The audience—divided into small groups—rotates from location to location.
Since there are multiples showings each day, it’s a marathon for the actors and a delight for the viewers. With pauses between rounds, conversation about each show, its meaning and its affect is natural. Dare I say, encouraged in a way not common during typical theatre.
The premise is simple: a party is happening on the grounds (hence your presence) hosted by the Minim house while the others go about their lives, including interacting with you as they mill about the scene before, between and during takes. Save for a couple of actors, it’s hard to distinguish most from other audience attendees.
The compositions can be viewed in any order; they make sense flowing together backwards, forwards, sideways, etc…and that’s the genius of the production. Each play works not only as a stand-alone snippet, but collectively—almost like Acts—as a meta-rumination on how people live. Die. Love. Fight. Lose. Win. But, mostly, how we let go. Because that’s the only way to truly move on from death, broken relationships, or failed hopes.
The outdoor setting and ambiance—created by the cradle of back alleys and a graveyard beset by hills—works both day or night. Given the ever closer creeping of Halloween, and the plays’ propensity to deal with death, in the darkness of a Saturday evening, this production could rival even the most visceral haunted houses. It’s not the gory-scream-around-the-corner campy death box that raises heart rates, but it’s a genuine haunting, begot by past experiences, lost loves, and irreversible regrets.
To divulge details—nearly any—would give too much away, as each play is no more than 15 minutes. Some are even shorter, though they all have a distinct perspective and are capped with individual impact. The actors’ performances are brief, but intense.
THE TINY HOUSE PLAYS
Closes October 12, 2014
Pinky Swear Productions at
21 Evarts St NW Washington
1 hour with intervals
Saturdays and Sundays
I enjoyed Big Bread and Josie, June, and Death—mostly because I relish humor bordering on absurd and tinged with surrealism couched within a completely realistic setting. Death incarnate (Kevin O’Reilly) taunting people by blaring Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” segment of Carmina Burana? Yes, please! (ASIDE: That’s probably why the opera features in every other movie, TV show, or commercial. Death is always provoking us). Though, Girls and Women resonated most for me as I watched Colette (Lilian Oben) wonder if the life she once imagined (husband, kids, white picket fence) is still there. Somewhere. Waiting.
Days Gone Bye features original music performed by Georgia Mae Lively that’s raw, melodic, intimate, understated and just plain lovely. Especially in such close quarters.
Together, the Tiny House Plays paint a portrait of life lived in a community that, no matter the size of the house, is no different from any other. People live. People die. People love. People fight. They break-up. They lose. They win. They lose again. They regret. And then, they learn to let go.
The Tiny House Plays:
Girls and Women by Thembi Duncan with Lilian Oben as Colette, Stephanie Svec as Katie and Toni Rae Salmi as Katie (swing).
Josie, June, and Death by Ann and Shawn Fraistat with Melissa Hmelnicky as June, Allyson Harkey as Josie, and Kevin O’Reilly as Death.
Big Bread by Laura Zarn with Nathan Alston as Richard, Gray West as Todd, and Alexis Graves as Krista.
For Emma by Danielle Mohlman with Clarissa Barton as Emma and Christian Campbell as Cooper.
Days Gone Bye by Donna Rachelle with Kimberlee Wolfson as Mom, Dexter Hamlett as Dad, and Georgia Mae Lively as Daughter.
Production Team: Jessica Aimone and Karen Lange (Executive Producers); Allyson Harkey and Melissa Hmelnicky (Assistant Producers); Jessica Aimone (Director); Toni Rae Salmi (Assistant Director); Bobby Hunter (Production Manager); Laura Wood (Stage Manager); Max Applewhite, Derek David, Amanda C. Herman, Laura O’Brien, and Christy Sexton (Assistant Stage Managers); and Liz Gossens (Costume Designer) . Produced by Pinky Swear Productions . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.
THE TINY HOUSE PLAYS