Archikulture Digest

Play In A Day!!

Play In A Day!!

Producing Artistic Director Beth Marshall

April 5, 2010

PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays

Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>

Six beers in a pack, six writers in this show? Coincidence? I think not. It’s time again for writers, directors and actors to turn random concepts into polished productions overnight. Rather than dawdle for months and spend endless nights drink beer and debating high concepts, the agenda is military simple – assignments are given at 1700 hours Sunday, directors and actors assigned to each writer, concept solidified by 1800 hours, scripts due next day at 0700, off book by 1500, tech rehearsal as the audience rolls up the bar, and pow – it’s opening night! Cast party begins at 2100, a mere 28 hours later.

The set is a given – “School House Rock” is running at Shakespeare, and a wall of brightly colored bubbles and targets provides the only natural protective coloration I’ve ever seen completely conceal Beth Marshall. She gives the pep talk and a short intro to the show she directed, and we’re off into Margot Knight’s “Malice In Wonderland. Avis Marie Barnes pops out of the woodwork with bunny ears and a paper sign reading “Obama” to lead a series of songs and jokes about health care reform that range from funny to preachy as she transforms in to The Black Rabbit Queen and Lady Macbeth. Opposite her is Britni Leslie as the flexible and impressionable Alice, and the pair roll up all the pros and cons of this year’s most talked about legislations.

The Heavy Drama rolls up next in Todd Caviness’s “Church and State” (Dir Rob Ward). This politically incorrect MTV talk show is hosted by a bouncy and way-too-street-smart-to-be-real Izzy Benjamin (Dominique Major). On the pro gay side is Brett Carson, a politician who came out of the closet because he thought it the right thing to do, and on the obviously-hasn’t-been-to-Sunday-School school of right wing politics we see a prim Elizabeth Murff. The usual platitudes pile on, but in a few minutes most of the cast lies in a Titus Andronicus sized pile of corpses. The heart of this drama – I wasn’t expecting the end.

“Prom Court” by Lindsay Cohen (Dir. Laurel Clark) uses the existing set as Sarah Lockhard’s hallucination – it’s prom night at the P-house, and bitchy Tara Corless picks on a pregnant and hirsute Josh Geoghagan. Butch coach Nicole Carson calms them down, and in one of the most truly disturbing pieces of stage craft I’ve ever experienced she pulls down her pants and pulls out a roll of TP. Fortunately, Sarah Lockhard’s dance deadens the sensation as she floats in and distracts us as Josh gives birth and flushes the fetus. The show is actually rather charming, and it’s not until you sit down and do the math that you realize how warped this production team has become.

A more intellectual exercise comes from the pen of Eric Pindar and director Jennifer Bonner. In “The Shakespeare Code” an English professor is found murdered with a cryptic sonnet in his pocket. The style is suspense thriller, and it’s a literate and carefully thought out work that might well find life as a fully edited production. John Palmer plays multiple roles from suspect to assistant cop to the Woman With Too Much Perfume. Opposite him we find Richard Perez as the inspector, and while both had scripts in hand they made this show really pop.

John DiDonna, better known for his gut wrenching productions about psychotics and psychopaths pulled the plum assignment of doing a ’70s comedy. I do believe John is dangerous on some deep level, his director Leesa Halstead reported he had dreamt about Sanford and Son in a premonition that it was time for him to do more comedy. We get a completely silly Barry White making love to a bottle of Ripple (look it up). His other sweetheart in this pawn shop of love is a doddering Marty Stonerock as they team up to save Medusa (Maddie) from a fate worse than death – living in s South Central. This show is a complete reversal for DiDonna, and while it seemed to go on and on like a real 70s comedy, the writing and acting kept the audience laughing.

We closed with Michael Wanzie’s “EasterFest!” (Dir. James Brendlinger). This Performance Art piece pits Jesus Christ (Mellissa Mason) against the ever so secular Easter Bunny (Abby Savage). Their gentle parody of this recent holiday degenerates into a tirade about placing PlayFest! too close to a major holiday. The symbolism was accurate even if the communion wafer came from the New England Candy Company and the wine came from Costco. While the symbolic crucifixion of Pat Flick and David Lee may have been a bit much, but I do agree with the premise – PlayFest! falls too close to the Florida Film Fest.

As “Play In A Day” shows go, this one had some real laughs along with a few painful moments, but was a crowd smash. Someone called the show “Fringe Light” and there’s an element of truth in that – this felt like a warm up for the next big event which lurks a mere five weeks in the future.

For more information on “PlayFest!,” please visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org.


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