So it was last night at Soundstage Theatre in the Crestwood Art Space. What a hodgepodge of "stuff" - and the funny thing was, as soon as the second half ended, small groups of people formed excitedly asking each other the same question: which ones did you like?
I didn’t feel comfortable answering because, well, I was a reviewer, which no one knew, really, but I’m supposed to be cool, theatrically wisened and aloof – yeah, right. And the questioners were as likely as not some of the actors, or playwrights, or their family and/or friends – talk about being on the spot.
But now, ah, yes, in the quiet remove of my study, early the next morning – now I can answer. So, here are my favorites, in ascending order, and why.
Women on my mind, written by Jim Greer, directed by Bill Stine. It’s a cute story. Not much to it. Nicely staged. But it highlighted three very attractive, shapely young ladies in revealing garb. Ok, I’m a guy. I’m sorry. I liked it.
The Body Exchange by Mario Farwell, directed by Phillip Allen Coan. I didn’t like this one at first but as the old man, Hiram, played by Brad Slavik, came to be interested in the feelings of his robotic body replacement, it changed. It became a story of redemption and Slavik did a very nice job, in a very compressed timeframe, of slowly revealing something deeper.
Naughty Boy Naughty Girl, again by Farwell (hence eight plays by 7 playwrights), again directed by Coan. This is a cute, interesting tale, which, at first, left me hanging a bit but, perhaps in Farwell’s signature style, evolved into something richer and deeper as the short play moved along. Farwell has a gift for taking a simple set up and peeling away layers to reveal humanity and emotion. The acting by Bryan Maynard as Judah Rosenbloom and Hillary Gokenbach as Dorothea Ressling was shyly and hesitantly right on target.
THE BUFFALO, written by Steven Clark, directed by Stine, was, for me, the most important play of the evening, yet one of the most confused and least well-acted. The story was hard to follow and the acting was flat and unconvincing but it was clear from the outset this one had a message – and that message was powerfully delivered in a monologue by Shahnaz Ahmed, pacing the room, making eye contact with us, individuals, in the audience. The staging of the final scene, sight and sound, too helped drive the point home. I am glad I saw this play. It says something that, for me, needs to be said and heard.
And my favorite on the evening … drum roll please ….
FAMILY ALBUM by Cody Tucker, directed by Coan. The story was compelling and dramatic. The acting was the best on the night with Lee J. Cox playing God(frey) Samms and Tasha Zebrowski playing his daughter Birch Samms. Both actors were convincing, and powerful. From the instant of lights up, they were fully invested in their characters and carried them through to the surprise conclusion.
In fact, I have to make special mention of Zebrowski. Several of the actors were in multiple plays, Zebrowski, herself, was in four. She was outstanding throughout.
All the cast and crew did yeoman’s work with actors like Bryan Maynard in four plays, Hillary Gokenbach in three, several of the others in two. Scene and set changes, seven in all, were handled quickly, smoothly and efficiently – and even the order of the plays appeared to be well thought through.
Let me now return to something I said at the outset. As soon as the evening ended, small groups gathered: which was your favorite? What did you think of this actor or actress?
And for every reviewer – afterall, aren’t all audience members reviewers of a sort? – there is bound to be a different favorites list.
Afterall, isn’t that the real beauty of a short play fest? There truly is something for everyone.