“I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” brags the Welsh mystic Owen Glendower, in Henry IV, Part 1.
“Why, so can I, or so can any man,” retorts Hotspur. “But will they come when you do call for them?”
So it is here: you can call the ten-minute plays which appear in this collection the best in the ten-year history of the Source Festival, but are they? Let’s, as the Bard might say, give them the ocular test. Also, the aural test.
Excellent, check. Excellent, check. Beautiful if somewhat mystifying? Check. Powerful but in my view wrong? Check. Delightful, check. Very funny if a tad overlong, check.
So, all right. The CulturalDC Source Festival — Best of collection is arguably a collection of the Source’s best ten-minute plays. At least we can say that they’re awfully good.
Let’s get down to cases, starting with my favorite — Gregory Hischak’s Amenities, in which an old warehouse, previously home to several artists, has been converted to condos, and sold at absolutely outrageous prices to absolutely insufferable people. David Walsh and Lindsay Williams play two of those insufferable people, hosts to the insufferable Leah (Clancey Yovanovich). Claudia and Martin are people who, in Oscar Wilde’s phrase, know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They admire the view without having any idea what they’re seeing, and their idea of gourmet cooking is to order pricey food to be delivered. But it is the presence of Morris (Michael Bannigan) which allows the moral disorder that governs the world of this brief playlet to bloom. Top-notch performances by all the actors, particularly Walsh as Martin, a man for whom self-importance is the prime directive. Hilarious, insightful, and, ultimately, compassionate. Julia Hurley directs.
I was also delighted to see The Ferberizing of Coral, Patrick Flynn’s fabulous ten-minute distillation of parental anxiety, newborn division. Axandre Oge and Fabiolla Da Silva are first-time parents armed with a baby monitor and the belief, derived from a book, that they should wait ten minutes while their baby cries before they intervene. Their resolution begins to wane with nine minutes, thirty-seven seconds to go. But, brothers and sisters, you don’t know what anxiety is until you’ve had your first child. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse — well, you’ll have to see it to believe it. The thing is that, thanks to Oge and DeSilva’s nuanced performances, you will be able to believe it. Director Elena Velasco should get some credit for that.
Alex Dremann’s The Physics of Now is a complicated riff on time travel, done with great wit and inventiveness. Dagney (Yovanovich) and Jake (Bannigan) are young lovers and also ambitious scientists. Dagney is on the cusp of discovering a formula which would permit us to travel in time; Jake is skeptical but, more to the point, interested in knocking off work in favor of the horizontal mambo. Dagney yields, not reluctantly, to his amorous intent but while she is away making preparations, future Jake (Walsh) appears, followed shortly by future Dagney (Williams). Chaos, as they say, ensues. This seemed to have stretched on beyond the prescribed ten minutes, although that may have been a product of some of the time travel escaping and affecting the audience. Hurley directs this cheery piece.
The remaining three works were as much dance as theater, none more so than Gabriel Jason Dean’s Fugue for Amorous Tornados, which asks the question: who can chain the wind? Apparently a young woman named Piper (Da Silva) can, as she has chained a tornado (Oge) up in her cabin, in the cause of love, or at least a good time. There is not much to this little soufflé of a play, even by ten-minute standards, but Da Silva imbues her character with so much personality that you will have a rooting interest which (spoiler alert) will be satisfied. Velasco directs.
Stephen Lewis’ Pas de Deux for a Microwave Night is a complex meditation on internet dating, done mostly by movement and gestures. Gerry (Alex Lopez) and Kathy (Kazi Jones) are alone and bored and so they enter themselves onto OK Cupid. But the Gerry that Gerry creates online is not quite himself, so he is played by Thomas Shuman, and the Kathy that Kathy creates must similarly be played by Lori Pitts. Our protagonists, or their doppelgangers, go out into the electronic night, and there meet lunatics, boors, braggarts, morons, creeps and cretins, all played by Maria Paz Lopez and Brandon McMahon. I must admit that I could not follow some of the encounters which Lewis put together after that; I did not get who Gerry and Kathy were supposed to be dating, or quite what was happening, but the thing went on with great grace, and I got the general point. Adin Walker directs this, and I’m guessing choreographs it as well.
I approach Laura Jacqmin’s Jacqmin Family in the Petrified Forest, which Walker also directs, with some trepidation. It is a good work, thoughtfully done and remarkably clear, but it is so much in variation from my experience that I think I must address it. In doing so I am going to reveal more of the plot than I would normally do, but I do not think I could consider the piece honestly unless I did. Jacqmin Family is about a trip which a family (the cast is the same as it is in Pas de Deux, with one addition) takes through California.
closes July 2, 2017
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It is narrated by one of the daughters (Christina Ibarra) and runs through several incidents, the most significant of which is a visit to the petrified forest. There the daughter observes the process by which silica replaces the wood in trees, turning them into objects which look like trees but are stone instead. This she compares to her father (Lopez), who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Well. Parkinson’s is serious business — a debilitating nerve disorder which ultimately results in death. But aside from the physical effects, the sufferer remains unchanged. You will doubtlessly remember what happened to Pope John Paul II, who shouldered the burden of Parkinson’s for the last ten or so years of his life, and remained absolutely the same person throughout. An equally famous sufferer, at least to me, was my father, who had Parkinson’s for twelve years until his death, and remained as sage, mischievous, humble and compassionate as he was all his life. Indeed, the Jacqmin family father in this piece proceeds with great dignity and self-awareness, and does not transform an inch in the course of this play. I write this on Father’s Day, and am compelled to note that neither Father Jacqmin, Father Treanor, or Father Wojtyla were changed a bit by this dreadful disease.
Well, back to business. The Source has called its spirits from the vasty deep, and it appears that they have come when called.
Source Festival: Best-of, being composed of The Ferberizing of Coral, by Patrick Flynn, directed by Elena Velasco, featuring Axandre Oge and Fabiolla Da Silva; Amenities, by Gregory Hischak, directed by Julia Hurley, featuring Clancey Yovanovich, Lindsay Williams, Michael Bannigan and David Walsh; Pas de Deux for a Microwave Night, by Stephen Lewis, directed by Adin Walker, featuring Alex Lopez, Kazi Jones, Maria Laz Lopez, Thomas Shuman, Brendan McMahon and Lori Pitts; Jacqmin Family in the Petrified Forest, by Laura Jacqmin, directed by Walker, featuring Cristina Ibarra, Alex Lopez, Jones, Maria Paz Lopez, Shuman and Pitts; Fugue for Amorous Tornados, by Gabriel Jason Dean, directed by Velasco, featuring Oge and Da Silva; and The Physics of Now, by Alex Dremann, directed by Hurley, featuring Yovanovich, Williams, Bannigan and Walsh . Lighting design: E-hui Woo . Costume design: Jeffrey Peavy . Sound design: Bob Pike . Dramaturg: Sara Cohen . Props design and run crew: Kyla Duff . Stage manager: Tori Ujczo, assisted by Carissa Gibson. Produced by the Source Festival. Reviewed by Tim Treanor.