What to do in the sleepy month of August. What Silver Spring Stage has done for quite a few years is kick off their new season with their annual one act play festival. It has turned into a great opportunity for introducing audiences to new actors, directors, even local playwrights.
I like thinking of it as a mini Fringe Festival, except instead of you running around to see different shows, you get to sit back and they bring the different shows to you. You will find a wide variety of subject matter and approach in these offerings, and if one item is not your style, wait a few minutes and the next offering probably will be.
Last weekend kicked off the festival with a strong slate of plays, three comedies and two dramas, and the while all were enjoyable, the comedies really rocked. These comedies really delved into serious issues, though from a humorous viewpoint.
For example – sick of the whole health care debate? “Emergency Room” by Jeff Stolzer turned this topic into a hilarious encounter between an unnamed patient and a hospital administrator who will not let him leave until he plays his bill. And the medical costs seem to be growing exponentially by the second. It is almost “Waiting for Dr. Godot” in its absurd premise, but there are little jabs here about the whole “socialist” medicine debate and local budgetary woes. Good job by director Felicity Ann Brown and her two actors – patient Jonathan Dyer and administrator/nurse Leta Hall – who keeps the show light and frothy even when going into darker terrain as the situation reaches its ultimate absurdity.
Sick of the whole politically correct thing? Max Mondi’s “Sometimes a Cumquat is Only a Cumquat” gives that idea a good natured kick in the pants. Here David Gorsline plays a theater manager having trouble coming up with a season when Nick Sampson comes in with a play “we simply must produce.” Gorsline is honest about how trite the work is (one excerpt uses the word “man” like every third word) which allows Sampson to get on his socially relevant hobby horse. This play does come close to be a one joke play, but the actors and director Leta Hall keep it light hearted throughout, and it is so much fun watching Gorsline prick that socially relevant balloon with the simplest of means.
Sick of modern technology? “Recalculating” by Eugene Carabatsos was perhaps the best play of the evening, and certainly the most original. It is about a middle aged couple Harry (Steve Snapp) and Emma (Kathryn Johnston) on a road trip and Harry is proud of his new technical wonder, a GPS named Garmin. As played by Sarah Neely, Garmin has all sorts of hilarious features, including different languages and accents, but when Harry accidentally breaks Garmin, suddenly husband and wife have to do something they rarely do any more – actually talk to one another. Lennie Magida directs with all sorts of visual flair (dig Garmin’s goggles) but does not stint on the serious issue at the heart of this comedy.
Also dealing with husband and wife relationships was the better of the two dramas opening weekend. “Migration Route” by Trish Cole uses the interesting idea of a couple watching for the return of migratory birds as a symbol for their own relationship – tragically disrupted by a recent miscarriage. Director Joseph Coracle and his two actors (Maria Raquel Ott and Michael Fisher) do a nice job with this piece, but the script feels like a superior first draft. The work is too short and we never really get to know these people or their situation. If this concept was extended and more fully fleshed out, the final results could be quite intriguing.
Like I said, with one act festivals, not everything might be your cup of tea, and the final drama “Death Wish” was not mine. The plot is the old I’ve done bad things to women so I’ll confess in a blog and then interview women to kill me in a claustrophobic basement plot line. Honestly. Except for the bubbly first interviewee (a great Caity Brown) none of these characters are particularly appealing, and neither were their situations. After this, I wanted to read something light hearted and whimsical – like H P Lovecraft.
Still, four out of five is a great batting average and a strong start to this year’s one act festival.
Everyone handles one act play festivals differently – Silver Spring Stage has a different program each weekend. Next weekend (August 16-19) will be a ten minute play festival, eight one act plays in an evening. Most of the plays will be comedies but there will be one drama and one musical with “The Alleged Adventures of Blenderman.” The final weekend (August 23-26) will feature four plays, evenly split between comedies and dramas.
Mocovox Entertainment Critic