SHOWING : May 29, 2014 - June 08, 2014
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Summer Harvest 2014
A Different World
All Aboard! For a journey through a collection of original 10-minute plays that explore different worlds and bring us home to places we know well.
Train to Tranquility by Raymond Fast
Voice Activated by Steven D Miller
Far From Connecticut by Laura King
Art – Official Intelligence by Daniel Guyton
The Mullahs and the Mamas by Sondra Ilgenfritz
The Samaritan by Kevin Kincheloe
Getting By by Janie Young
Pleased to Meet You by Steve Pryor
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A Diffident World|
Sunday, June 15, 2014 ||
Onion Man Productions’ "Summer Harvest 2014: A Different World" puts eight different short plays on the stage in a varied set of entertainments, all supposedly concerning worlds different from our own. That’s true in all but one of the cases, which turns out to be the best of the lot. The variety, in any case, makes for a diverting evening, with only a couple of the plays going on a little too long.|
The set background for the play, designed and/or built by James Beck, Cathy Seith, and Patrick Young, is the best I’ve seen for Onion Man’s plays. The walls are dark blue, with a galactic starburst-type effect extending from the wall farthest upstage to the walls in front of it that allow for various exits and entrances. It’s neutral, but attractive, not drawing attention to itself. Gary White’s lighting design is also good, effectively setting the stage for the individual requirements of the plays. Jeremy Clark’s original score adds another touch of uniformity that lifts this production above the ordinary.
First up is Daniel Guyton’s splendidly costumed "ART - OFFICIAL INTELLIGENCE." This is a strange play, in which Bob Smith plays the hard taskmaster of two art-creating robots, played by Jeremy Clark and Cat Roche. The plot, such as it is, has taskmaster McGleetch slowly finding out that a mysterious female rival has tampered with the robots. It’s neatly constructed and well acted, and James Beck’s direction gets the utmost out of the script, which hints at a world we don’t fully comprehend.
Second is Steve Pryor’s "Pleased to Meet You." This play starts out in our world and ends up in the afterworld. Patrick Young hasn’t directed it with much urgency, so it ends up feeling a bit overlong. Adelle Drahos ably portrays an airport desk agent, but Evan Weisman is a bit tentative as a demanding customer. Rick Perera does a nice job of portraying subtle menace as another desk agent, but his restraint has nothing to contrast with, so it loses some of its possible effect.
Third comes Raymond Fast’s "The Train to Tranquility," which is split into four sections apportioned between the two acts. The action is well suited to this split, since each section takes place in the four minutes before a train departs to Tranquility (with various intermediate stops at places similarly named). Mind (Anna Tucker) and Body (Maggie Blaeser) can’t quite bring themselves (or is it herself?) to board the train. Patrick Young has directed them to give energetic, confident performances of highly unconfident people, which works remarkably well. Darlye Maroney plays the stranger they tentatively connect with, and her performance is not quite so confident. While the first three portions of the play are intriguing and nicely structured, the resolution of the play is a bit weak and a bit too reminiscent of the ending of the play that immediately precedes it ("Far from Connecticut").
The fourth play is Steven D. Miller’s "Voice Activated." Daniel Carter Brown has directed Paige Steadman (N) and Kevin Savage (Opie) to give very different performances. Ms. Steadman is bright and energetic and kinetic, setting a level that Mr. Savage’s low energy, low volume, and slow pace continually let down. Nevertheless, the audience seemed to enjoy this piece, with its foreshadowed surprise ending.
The last full play in the first act is Kevin Kincheloe’s "The Samaritan." This is the one case in the evening where the efforts of the playwright, the director (James Beck), and the actors (Ben Humphrey, Bob Smith, and Brandi Kilgore) all come together to create a first-rate production. The plot fits firmly in the world as we know it, with plot twists upending the roles of Good Samaritan and victim as a man finds himself stranded by the highway. There are literary references that lift the script a little above the ordinary, true energy in the direction, and splendid performances all around.
The second act starts with Janie Young’s "Getting By." This play posits a world in which street crossing is an occupation that has certain job requirements, as overseen by a bureaucratic crossing guard. It’s cute and to the point, not overstaying its welcome by an instant. Director Patrick Young has gotten charismatic performances out of every one of the large cast (Adelle Drahos, Nikki LaShae, Joe McLaughlin, Susan Moss, Erika Ragsdale, Kevin Savage, and Jillian Walzer). Ms. Young has written memorable parts for each member of the cast, and they chomp into the roles with brio. Some gender-bending seems to have occurred in the casting, which makes for occasional odd references, but that’s no more than a tiny quibble.
Sondra Ilgenfritz’s "The Mullahs and the Mamas" creates a world similar to Saudi Arabia, but with the roles of men and women reversed. Sheila Allen plays the lead role of Her Benevolence with power (if with a number of seeming line glitches), accompanied by a large number of female acolytes who have comparatively little to do. The plot concerns the trial of a man (Jenish Joseph) caught driving (not allowed for men!) with his face uncovered (worse!). The points made are fairly humorous, if pretty predictable, but the happy ending pointing the way to a new Eden seems a little long in coming. Having such a large cast dilutes the power of the piece.
The last play is "Far from Connecticut" by Laura King. Daniel Carter Brown has directed it with too much shuffling about in the blocking, but he gets good performances out of his cast (Lory Cox, Celeste Campbell, Ben Humphrey, and Derek Odom). Costuming is good, but makeup is abysmal. (Two characters are supposed to be racially chartreuse and purple.) The writing is clear and to the point, and the ending is an optimistic affirmation that ends the evening on an "up" note (as echoed in the immediately following conclusion of "The Train to Tranquility").
"Summer Harvest 2014: A Different World" provides a nice variety of short plays that Onion Man Productions can be proud of. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
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by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)