A User-Driven Site for Theater in Atlanta, Georgia
a 10-Minute Plays
by Boretz, McClain, Roberts, Beecroft, Dakutis, Walzer, Lupo, Mintz

COMPANY : Merely Players Presents [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Atlanta Cuban Club [WEBSITE]
ID# 5476

SHOWING : May 02, 2019 - May 12, 2019



8 ten-minute plays, all written, directed by, and starring Atlanta artists. Featuring: HIT OR MISS by Jillian Walzer, OPPOSITES DETRACT by GM Lupo, GURU OF PEACHTREE VISTA by Nick Boretz, THE BEST MOTHER-IN-LAW EVER by Peter Dakutis, MUSIC ALONE by Daphne Mintz, LIVING DEAD AND FULLY by Mary Beecroft, THE GREAT SUBURBAN OUTBACK by Emily McClain, and PERFORMANCE REVIEW by Nedra Pezold Roberts.

Guru of Peachtree Vista Nick Boretz
Opposites Detract GM (Matt) Lupo
The Great Suburban Outback Emily McClain
Hit or Miss Jillian Walzer
Producer Joanie McElroy
Hit or Miss Allan Dodson
Guru of Peachtree Vista Daniel Guyton
The Great Suburban Outback Courtney Loner
Opposites Detract Jim Nelson
Music Alone Melissa Simmons
The Great Suburban Outback Abra Thurmond
Living Dead and Fully William Thurmond
Performance Review Jillian Walzer
David Daniel Carter Brown
Mildred Lory Cox
Will Brock Kercher
Sylvia, Lavonia Debbie McLaughlin
Chris Joseph McLaughlin
Claudius Gene Paulsson
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A Mixed Bag
by playgoer
Monday, May 20, 2019
After the first act of the Amplifest short play festival, you’d be justified in thinking that the material doesn’t rise up to the usual standard of local short play festivals. After the second act, your opinion will rise considerably. The evening of eight plays being presented by Merely Players Presents has been arranged in general order of increasing quality.

First up is Nick Boretz’s "Guru of Peachtree Vista," directed by Daniel Guyton. The stage is set with a throne, on which Ron (Louis Alfred, garbed with necklaces and beads galore) reposes as the curtain speech occurs, and which is surrounded by various detritus associated with a homeless man who has put out a hat to collect donations. Green-haired Amanda Szymczak arrives as Rima to serve him with papers requiring him to move from the vacant lot he inhabits. As the action proceeds, we find that Ron and Rima have crossed paths in the past. In a comic interlude, Daphne (Hema Shilpa Uppala) shows up to share with Ron her gratitude for his guru-like wisdom. It’s a show with a generally interesting flow that simply goes on too long.

"The Best Mother in Law Ever" follows. This play by Peter Dakutis introduces us to a gay couple at a restaurant. Tim (Thomas von Dohlen) is comforting David (Chris Mayers), who dreads the arrival of his mother Sylvia (Debbie McLaughlin), who’s a leather-clad bad influence and seems ashamed of how staid and colorless her son is. Waiter Brian (Torreke Evans) knows Tim, so there are introductions to be made and samples of Brian’s acting to be endured. David doesn’t know how his mother will react to the news that he and Tim are getting married, and the resolution of his dilemma forms the backbone of the plot. Melissa Simmons has directed the show with some nice movement and has guided her actors to their most effective performances, making this selection the highlight of the first act.

Third up is Jillian Walzer’s "Hit or Miss," directed by Allan Dodson. This is a very talky play, as 20-something Will (Chris Mayers) and 40-something Megan (Kirstin Popper) meet at a coffee bar. Their life situations have incredible similarities, which they hash out, and they start what seems to be a very tentative flirtation. The play starts somewhat bafflingly, as the two strangers start playing Battleship on their laptops out of the blue. Apparently the environment supports electronic connections, which Megan uses to gain access to Will’s phone as part of their incipient relationship. This is more of a character study than a play.

The first act ends with Emily McClain’s "The Great Suburban Outback," which shows a typical suburban American family (Daniel Carter Brown as the father, Amanda Szymczak as the mother, Lincoln Doyle as the teen son, and Lucy Thurmond as the pre-teen daughter) who are visited by a purported foreign exchange student (Amber Brown) and her videographer (Ambruce Carter). The interaction doesn’t go as might be expected, with a moral that simply doesn’t hit home. Abra Thurmond and Courtney Loner have directed the show to get energetic performances out of all their actors, but blocking often seems cluttered, and there’s a peculiar array of accents used by one character that adds to the confusion of what the show is trying to say.

The second act starts out promisingly with Daphne Mintz’s "Music Alone," in which a son (Brock Kercher) makes an unannounced afternoon visit to his unemployed mother (Linda Marie Johnson) and home-for-a-nooner father (Joe McLaughlin). The parents are ready to let loose and follow their dreams of youth, shocking their straitlaced son. Melissa Simmons does another fine job of directing her actors, and the play does not overstay its welcome by a moment.

"Opposites Detract" by G.M. Lupo shows us a seemingly mismatched lesbian couple at a restaurant. Constance (Maggie Beker) is very orderly and reserved; Laura (Liz Dooley) is uninhibited and a bit flashy. Under Jim Nelson’s direction, they give very detailed performances. This is another play that seems to be just the right length.

Third in the second act is Mary Beecroft’s "Living Dead and Fully," which introduces us to a waiting room in the afterlife, where clerk Claudius (Gene Paulsson) and his helper Mildred (Lory Cox) process a number of recently deceased people, most notably Sarah (Maggie Beker) and Alicia (Kirsten Krehbiel), who were friends in childhood. Their reconnection in the afterlife is the centerpiece of the action, giving the play the most satisfying emotional arc of the evening. William Thurmond has directed the action effectively and blocked the large cast to maintain appropriate focus.

The evening ends with "Performance Review" by Nedra Pezold Roberts. This is the best of the plays, beautifully acted by Jessica Wise and Stuart Schleuse under the direction of Jillian Walzer. We start with a monologue by Ms. Wise concerning the Greek tragedy "Antigone" that leads to the performance review her character is undergoing. There’s plenty of humor, a little shock value, and a barbed message that drives its point home with great effectiveness while not lasting a second longer than necessary.

Several of the actors play multiple roles, sometimes in back-to-back selections. It’s a tribute to their skill and to the guidance of their directors that there is no bleed-over from one character to the next. Each play creates its own world, and these actors subscribe fully to that world, modulating their performances to conform to that world.

The technical aspects of the show are fine. The basic set, designed and painted by Gabrielle Stephenson, consists of wings and back wall painted as red brick, with a transition to solid black downstage. Kurt Hansen’s lighting design is more sophisticated than might be expected, and Louis Alfred III’s sound design accomplishes everything it needs to. Scene changes are accomplished with alacrity and accuracy. Costumes are varied and appropriate, showing much more of a range than might be expected in a modest production.

Merely Players Presents and its Merely Writers adjunct group are dedicated to providing opportunities for Atlanta-area theatre artists and playwrights. Amplifest is a notable showcase for the work of a number of these people. Not all the plays succeed equally, but they provide a sampling of viewpoints and styles that make for a generally satisfying evening of entertainment. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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