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Monday, 27 February 2012 22:50

Brevity is the soul of wit

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Brevity is the soul of wit / John Lamb

Briefs, it was called, because – well, because they were brief. Ten or 15 minutes. But there were seven of them, so together they made a full evening of theatre. But they only lasted one brief weekend.

Mostly, they were smart enough, each of these plays in A Festival of Short Lesbian & Gay Plays, not to try to do more than can be done in a brief time.

Take the first one, "Ladies' Room," written by Carolyn Gage and directed by Annamaria Pileggi. A young woman, a lesbian, very butch, heads for the ladies room in a mall. Someone calls security. They think a man is sneaking into the ladies room. The young woman is outraged. She should be able to dress any way she wants without some narrow-minded idiot trying to impose Neanderthal prejudices on the rest of the world. And we think we're in for five or ten didactic minutes about how we should get over our gender preconceptions.

We do get a little of that, and that's fine. But then Gage throws us a curve. The young woman's partner points out why this reaction might not be evil narrow-mindedness. The piece suddenly is very moving, and much more than a predictable piece of right thinking. And it's well done by Ariel Saul and Kylie Gregory as the two women.

At the other end of the evening, the last piece, "Attack of the Dorothies," by J.E. Phelan, directed by Joan Lipkin, doesn't go beyond the predictable. A very straight, middle-aged, middle-class, middle-minded couple played by Chuck Lavazzi and Theresa Masters hunker down in their middle-brow suburban home. Gay marriage has been made legal, and those gay couples – the actors from the other six scenes – are advancing on them, with their music blaring. That music infects the straights; they find themselves jerking to the beat and resurrecting their interest in (heterosexual) sex. It's a one-joke show, and even though brief, it's not much.

"Partners," by Em Lewis, directed by Bonnie Taylor, also marks time as an awkward threesome adjusts relationships. Terry (Wendy Renee Greenwood) is a cop. Pete (Robert Lee Davis, III) is her partner on the beat. Val (Elizabeth Graveman) is her partner at home. Pete has trouble with that.

"Write This Way," by Donna Hoke, directed by Ed Reggi, stirs some interest by presenting a writer (Reginald Pierre) and two of his creations, played by Lola Van Ella and Shane P. Mullen. They explore a few gender possibilities.

J. Stephen Brantley's "Shiny Pair of Complications" deals with a gay wedding but from an oblique angle. We see the groom (Troy Turnipseed) and his father (Bob Harvey) getting ready for the ceremony. Directed by Edward Coffield, it does cover some expected territory as the father adjusts, but there's a lovely sweetness about it.

And "The Date," written by Joan Lipkin and directed by Michael B. Perkins, sees two gay men, played by Ken Haller and Daniel John Kelly. stumbling through the usual awkwardness as they try to figure out how to conclude their first date. Then a neat little twist given to the meaning of a single word resolves matters for them.

Racist cliches, both black and white, get an airing in Patricia Montley's "Madrigal in Black and White," directed by Vanessa Roman. Two young women, one white (Erin Vlasaty), one black (Dana A. Sims), happen to meet and discover they have some interests in common, including, perhaps, each other. But as they get acquainted, each has a shadow figure – Donna Weinsting and Bobbie Williams – whispering those racist cliches in their ears. It's predictable, but it's amusing to see those expectations upended.

Joan Lipkin, of That Uppity Theatre Company, and Darin Slyman, of Vital VOICE, pulled this evening together, with help from many good people, and they found an interesting place downtown called La Perla to house it. I saw it in a preview, but with strong acting, directing, and production, it looked ready to me. It was brief and now over, but maybe they'll do something like this again.

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