Love theater, but have a limited attention span when the summer weather is calling? You might want to swing by the ninth annual CulturalDC Source Festival running through July 3rd.
This year’s festival centers around three central themes: Secrets and Sound, Heroes and Home, and Dreams and Discord. Each theme is represented in three full length productions and clusters of six ten-minute plays.
The stories featured in Dreams and Discord are skillful models of brevity and economy. Theatergoers will find the evening to be a grab bag where some episodes appeal more than others. A big part of the fun is seeing how the coterie of performers and directors fare under the challenge of such tight time constraints to advance a satisfying narrative.
In Hans and Elsie, we see the course of a relationship unfold for two eponymous lovers (Jonathan Helwig and Laura Artesi). Even with the sparks of their first meeting, Artesi is fixated on “the worst possible outcome” of what their union would bring. What’s the point of taking a chance on each other at all if it will inevitably end in tragedy or heartbreak? Helwig’s idea of the worst case scenario is being apart – while Artesi can’t help but dwell upon the world of horrors sure to be inflicted on their (unconceived) child. Directed by Gus Heagerty and written by Alyssa Wilden, the vignette is a reminder of the paralysis of fixating on the dark side of life, slightly weighed down by some gimmicky slow-motion to convey the passage of time.
In Lex Davis’s production of Riding Lessons, a lonesome fellow (Matthew Sparacino) literally carries around the burden of an imaginary friend, a whimsical clown (Mary Myers) that only he knows is present – until he bumps into an introverted book worm (Kendal Helbig) who shares his ability to see her. The pair turn out to share a lot in common, including similar pasts with demons they must overcome. Written by Brett Hursey, it’s a fun story heavier on dreams than overt discord, anchored by Myers’ playful antics.
In Everlast, two mountain climbers (Tess Higgins and Helwig) scaling the famous peak cavalierly provide a macabre recounting of the fate of a fellow explorer who failed to make it to the summit. Fixated on their goal of making it to the top no matter what, the characters cleverly send up the insular and hard-driving world of extreme sports. Written by Francesca Pazniokas and directed by Sarah Scafidi.
The Red Light, directed by Heagerty, takes us into a police state of perennial surveillance in which two women (Stephanie Garcia and Artesi) have entered into a forbidden relationship and live in a state of paranoia as they ponder making an escape. The script by David Williams doesn’t explicitly spell out whether we are casting a look back to the Soviet Union – or a dystopian glimpse forward to the twilight of the Trump presidency, an uncertainty which adds to a distinctly dream-like quality.
The premise of Choosing You, written by Rachel Lynett and directed by Davis, may be familiar turf to anyone who saw the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Sliding Doors, in which we saw how a woman’s life could have played out very differently in parallel lives with different romantic interests.
Dreams and Discord
closes July 2, 2016
Details and tickets
Similarly, Aurora (Myers) moves seamlessly back and forth between two glimpses into relationships – one with a man (Sparacino), one with a woman (Helbig) – that have their own unique challenges.
Finally, we come to my favorite of the crop – The Meth in Method, very cleverly written by Tommy Partl and directed by Scafidi. We are ushered into a typical, bloodless marketing pitch at a soulless corporation – except this one traffics in meth, having grown out of an old fashioned drug cartel. Think Breaking Bad’s Walter White with an MBA, with the suits and interns preoccupied with how to best reach the all-important millennial demographic. The show provides a strong finish to the evening, featuring Higgins, Helwig, Joe Killiany, Kelsey Murphy, Jonathan Frye, and Paige O’Malley.
You’re bound to find at least a few shows will resonate with you, so head over to the festival. Special kudos should also be paid to perhaps the true stars of the production – the stagehands, who do yeoman’s work in swiftly executing six set changes working with minimal time.