The ability to connect as people was celebrated by the evening’s performances. The focus was on the characters and their relationships, and the use of simple suggestive set pieces and props, as well as subtle lighting kept the pieces moving quickly from one into the other and suited the intimate theater space.
Throughout the evening, seven different stories looked at various aspects of life as reflected through the perspective of the LGBT community. Everyday situations, even ones as seemingly banal as sharing a conversation with a long-time co-worker, spouse or family member, are presented in short poignant tales that highlight some of the daily realities, fears, and hopes, of the LGBT community.
The actors, as an ensemble, were strong. Their commitment to the show, and to the characters they developed, was evidenced by the balance of polished performances, natural responses and strong emotions. I also appreciated the choice of scripts and order of presentation, it lent the show a sense of a “day in the life,” even as each story featured different characters and situations.
After a little pre-show dance music, courtesy of deejay Timmie B, the evening opened with an homage to a famous Norman Rockwell painting, “Black Eye.” We learn a young girl has been taught to be quite the schoolyard pugilist by a gym teacher who isn’t afraid to pull a few tricks out of her own sleeve to protect the girl from being expelled by the principal. The struggle between compromise and the refusal to be bullied was humorously and poignantly explored.Several of the short plays included asides and direct addresses to the audience, these were generally brief, frequently humorous and they worked very well with the crowd. The asides were particularly effective in the two medical shorts, “My Jesus Year” and “Are You Married,” and I appreciated that, in the latter, both the LGBT and straight character had moments of revelation delivered directly to the audience.
In “Waiting for the Skell,” two police officers, one gay, one straight, share an easy companionship and comfortable openness with each other that brought tears to my eyes during the final moments. The bond these actors created in this short play was convincing and effective. Similarly, in “The Surprise,” I felt sorrow and uncertainty at the revelation of continuing infidelity within a long-term relationship. The actors immediately established the everyday intimacy of their lives, and it hurt to wonder what might happen in their future.
Two additional briefs, “The Lady and the Tramp: A Love Story,” ending the first half of the evening, and “Zoo Story 2.0,” closing the show, had a light touch that left me feeling uplifted and wanting more. I also wondered: does it matter if a Chaplinesque comedian is male, female, straight or LGBT? Would Edward Albee appreciate an updated take on his work with two gay penguins, and their monogamous lifestyle, in the starring roles? These charming stories, and the comedic choreography in both, were visually pleasing, emotionally satisfying and joyful, providing an uplifting finish.
The talents of the actors, strength of the characters and honest approach to subject matter highlighted one of the deepest threads of the evening for me. “Briefs” works because the directors and actors chose to focus on genuine, human behavior and simply show how connected we truly are, every day, in every walk of life.“Briefs,” the 2nd annual festival of short LGBT plays, was presented by That Uppity Theater Company & Vital Voice Media. Performed in the event space La Perla in St. Louis City, the show ran February 28 through March 3, 2013.
To learn more about That Uppity Theater Company and upcoming shows, visit www.uppityco.com. To connect with Vital Voice Media follow @VitalVOICEmag or visit www.thevitalvoice.com.