Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Caller, Are You There?

Play #80 - Caller, Are You There? by Kitty Dubin

Dr. Linda Messenger is a harsh radio shrink known for having very specific ideas about how a family should work. She is pretty unforgiving. Parents, she says, should never be away from their children until they are in their teens. Even when her caller, Paul, asks for her blessing to leave his 3 and 4 year old children while he and his wife go on a vacation he just won to Hawaii, she tells him he is just being selfish. Her next caller is a woman named Anne whose adoptive mother just passed away, and she is not looking for her birth mother. Dr. Linda is disgusted with the idea, blindly criticizing anyone who would give up their child. But Anne blurts out that she believes Dr. Linda to be her mother. Dr. Linda assures her this is absurd, and she hangs up. Another caller comes on, asking for advice about his wife wanting to go to her high school reunion alone - Dr. Linda quickly declares his wife a slut and moves on to the next caller. This is Anne again, disguising her voice with a heavy southern accident. But quickly she does reveal herself, and gets Dr. Linda to listen at least a little, though she still refuses the connection. On her commercial break she calls her husband, quite rattled by the exchange, and when she comes back, she reads a letter from someone who could quite clearly be Anne's mother... though she doesn't actually read anything. She just recites the news. And finally, once she is off the air, she agrees to take Anne's call.

It's a little bit contrived, but if played earnestly, could be a sweet little play. And I like the old school feeling of a radio show. I know there are still plenty of radio shows, and I know they're not really old school, but they do have an old feeling. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Little Birds

Play #79 (Make-up #18) - Little Birds by Joy McCullough-Carranza

It's 1964 and Wally, Jerrie and Myrtle are the first Anerican women to set foot on the moon. They're sitting there together, quietly, doing nothing in particular...just sitting on a makeshift bemch on the surface of the moon. It turns out that they seem to have been left here by their male counterparts on the mission. After all their effort, they made it to the moon only to be marooned...they think it's been 42 days now. They discuss the possible excuses that the men might use when they return home without the women. They throw blame around - especially at Jerrie, who had been the champion of this particular endeavor. But eventually, they arrive at the decision that flying was in each of their souls from the start, and if they have to die, this might not be such a bad way to go. Then...well...it's back to the waiting.

This is really a surprisingly sad piece for the silliness of the situation.  Even in outer space, we can't escape the glass ceiling?

Maneater

Play #78 - Maneater by Janet Zarecor

Felicia and Alan are on a great date. They met through an online dating site, and they just clicked. It's now almost 7 o' clock, and they've been here in Alan's apartment since 4, just talking and kissing. They chat in broad terms about their disappointing past relationships - how they have both, historically, been "relationship killers." Of course...for one of them this turns out to be literally the case. And then...the whole thing starts over again with a new date. It's the same time of night, the same deep connection, but with a new topic of conversation: the string of cannibalistic murders associated with members of this dating site.

Honestly, the twist was a little predictable, but sort of in that charming way that makes you feel smart for figuring out the gag. I feel like I should collect a handful of these twisted short plays...could make for a really fun evening of theatre!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Two Conversations Overheard on Airplaned

Play #77 (Make-up #17): Two Conversations Overheard on Airplanes by Sarah Ruhl

I travel a lot, and when I do, I find it quite pleasurable to listen to other people or even just watch them and to come up with stories about who they might be or where they might be going. I suspect Ruhl does this too. This play is a sort of dreamy snippet of two conversations between four strangers. The Man and The Woman chat about life and death and children. Then the Young Man and Older Man talk about education and careers; the young man always playing catch-up, trying to find his footing with this much more accomplished man. In the end, there is a sound...and they all die, go to a new planet where they will spend eternity together. "They gaze. They shake hands. They vote. The end."

I criticized one of my recent reads for its lack of action. Now, Ruhl's lack of Aristotelian or Freytagian (to coin a word) is much more exciting. There is an amazing tone in the writing that fits the  placelessness of air travel. And the end - the endlessness of their situations, it makes everything these strangers shared both irrelevant and crucial!

Canyon's Edge

Play #76 (Make-up #16) - Canyon's Edge by Barbara Lindsay

Okay, this one was really sweet. Roy and his wife Coral (both in their 60s) are standing looking out over the Grand Canyon. Coral is quite excited and idealistic about it, Roy remains mostly quiet. Suddenly, a young woman in her 20s-30s (Kathy) rushes over as if she is about to hurl a ring into the canyon, but she can't quite do it, so instead she just lets out a wail that dissolves into a sob. Coral prompts Roy to go over and ask Kathy what's wrong. It turns out that Kathy has just left her husband - because he cheats on their taxes. Nothing big, but she is pregnant, and she's just realized that she doesn't know if she wants this petty, stingy man to be the father of her child. Coral applauds the decision, and Roy isn't quite sure what to say. But he does go on to tell Kathy the story of his own marriage - how much his wife had always wanted to come to the Grand Canyon, but he was always too busy. It is only now that he's retired that he has the time to come. He encourages Kathy to go back to her husband and encourage him to be the man that he should be - that he would thank her for pushing him not to regret the man he should have been. 

There is a nice little twist in the middle of this script that I don't want to mention because I would hate to spoil it for anyone who might stumble upon this little gem. But it really is a sincere little piece, with a pretty decent monologue for Kathy to boot!

Free Fall

Play #75 - Free Fall by Char Nelson

Charley sits cleaning a saddle when his ex-wife Brisa comes looking for him - or rather, for the saddle. They argue about their son Davy, they argue about the saddle, but mostly they argue about Charley's recent accident and what it says about him. He had taken his horse Lightning out to the highest part of the mountains to hunt for Elk. He bagged a big one, loaded up his pack mule with as much as it could carry, and started the ride back. However, the mule slid and pulled him and Lightning down - he was crushed, he cut the mule loose and it fell to its death, and Lightning stayed with him and helped him to safety. Brisa explained to him that this accident and his relationship with Lightning are perfect metaphors for what is wrong with his human relationships. Lightning will do whatever he tells her to do because he takes care of her, and he shows her respect - something she feels he has never done for his wife and child. In the end, she takes her saddle and tells him to stick with his horse - the only person he'll ever love.

I have to admit, I found this brief exchange a little bit boring. It was basically a play entirely about the past. Nothing happened, there was nothing truly at stake. They were just rehashing what is clearly an old argument. In the theatre, the most exciting events are the things that happen for the first time or the last time. This was definitely not the first time they had had this fight, and I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be the last. The language is poetic, but there was just nothing that made me think this conversation was going to mean anything in the long run. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Buy and Buy

Play #74 - Buy and Buy by Pamela Monk

Ah, parenthood. All the things that parents want for their children - and yet ultimately have no control over. That's the subject of Buy and Buy. Prefera and her Puppet companion go to the titular store in search of a destiny for her unborn child. First she goes to the Less is More department, where Grit attempts to sell her on destinies such as Bag Lady, Alcoholic and Dog Walker. From here, she moves up to the second floor and the More is Less department, where Evel discusses the ups and downs of destinies such as CEO, President, and Heiress (madcap or sought-after). Up to the third floor, where Tune sings a little ditty in the More or Less the Same department about the fact that there is little to no control for a parent, and they should just love their child. None of this is satisfying for Prefera, so she heads up to complain to Chuck in the More and Less department where he explains that she can complain all she wants, but everyone ends up with ups and downs, so she'll just have to pick something. So Prefera turns to her Puppet for advice... and then they both turn to the fetus... who doesn't answer.

Destinies, it turns out, are tricky.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Supernova

Play #73 - Supernova by Gemma Irish

A poetic play about endings and changes in relationships. Dylan (named after Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas) has just broken up with Ana. Both of them miss the other, but neither knows quite how to deal with the new broken up state. Dylan goes to hang out with his former roommate Lee. Lee lets him ramble on about how much he misses Ana, but eventually he brings up something else. Apparently there had been a bit of a romantic past between Lee and Dylan, and it is something that Lee is interested in rekindling. Dylan, however, is not. In the next scene, Ana comes to Lee's apartment looking for Dylan, just to see how it feels to see him. As they talk, Lee confesses that he too has feelings for Dylan, and that there had been a few encounters between the two of them. At first this angers Ana, but then they start to commiserate over the ways in which Dylan makes himself to attractive to them. Eventually, they decide that maybe he doesn't deserve all the attention they give him, and that they should move on. On an impulse, Lee kisses Ana. This turns out to be pleasant for both of them, and they decide to follow the moment to see where it leads. This leaves Dylan on his own, on a street corner, leaving a message for Ana, reaching out for one of those people who gave him meaning by needing him.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bones of Home

Play #72 - Bones of Home by Charlene A. Donaghy

This is an interesting play with an awful lot of tough ideas in a very small space. Miriam is an Irish woman in her 70s who finds Dillon, an African-American teenager, attempting to break into her house. It turns out that he thought the place was abandoned and he was just looking for somewhere to hide. He is running away from his aunt's house before she can take him back to Boston. He has been living with his aunt and uncle in Boston since his parents died in New Orleans in a hurricane - the suggestion, of course, is Katrina, or something like it. His aunt resented his mother for being the illegitimate child of their father and his lover, so she didn't even claim his parents' bodies. He is determined to get back to New Orleans where he can find his parents' graves, or at least be close enough to them to feel their memory. Miriam, whose partner Jessie died four months ago, has been lonely too, to the point of considering suicide. Dillon tells her that his parents had no choice whether or not to die, and that she would be selfish to choose death. After establishing their unlikely connection, Miriam goes inside to get the key to her old truck and some money - both of which she gives to Dillon to aid in his travels. He drives off, and Miriam is left on the porch of her run-down house, listening to the ball game and pondering her pills and wine.

There is some real affection and heart in this play, but I think it might be trying to accomplish a lot more than it can realistically fit in such a small space. Angsty teenager, runaway, hurricane Katrina, suicide, old lady with a dead female partner... it just feels a little dense

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Green Dating

Play #71 - Green Dating by Chantal Bilodeau

This is kind of a silly little play about two teens named simply Boy and Girl. At rise, they are enthusiastically making out. When they finally come up for air, they start to talk about how intense their feelings are, much as you might expect any teenagers to do. As they talk, they test the waters of talking about taking things a little further. When they agree that they would like to, Girl takes the air out of things: she asks Boy to get tested. Boy is taken aback - of course he's clean! How could she dare asking him something like this!?! The argument escalates, until we discover that the test she is interested in is of his carbon footprint. Ooh... bait and switch. It's kind of a silly gag, and not really enough of a payoff to make the play successful in my opinion. It's sort of cute, but not, in my opinion, quite as clever as I think it thinks it is.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Me

Play #70 - Me by Maia Akiva

I really enjoyed this play - the version of reality that it presents is sort of comforting. The play takes place in an office that features a photo of Maia on the wall along with diagrams of all the people she knows and how they are connected. Behind the desk, Maia's Destiny is hard at work when, all of a sudden, Maia wanders into the office. Now, strictly speaking, people are not supposed to be able to wander into the office of their destiny, so MD is a little shocked. And it doesn't take long for Maia to become pretty shocked as well. MD tries to chase Maia out of the office by holding her at gunpoint, but when Maia gets the gun, the tables turn and MD has to confess who she is and what this office is. Maia ends up pretty excited about that and starts to demand answers to all of her questions about her life: will she be happy? When will she make money as a writer? When will she find love? She wants to know everything. But, of course, MD doesn't want to tell her. So Maia just sits down at the computer and prepares to click through all the folders on her life. MD tries to talk her out of it, promising her that knowing for sure what her future will hold will take all the joy out of life. She will no longer have anything to look forward to, she'll never be surprised by anything. But Maia argues she'll also never be let down. They go back and forth about this for a while, until Maia finally decides that she's better off not knowing. ND reassures her that her destiny isn't what she does or has or accomplishes... it simply is her. She puts down the gun and leaves... and MD cheerfully reports that the visit went as planned, and that Maia will love what's coming next.

I really dig this idea of an office dedicated to each of our lives - to seeing all the pieces of the puzzle as they fall in and out of place. And the argument that the uncertainty of life is partly where all the joy comes from is very interesting. Of course, a lot of the disappointment and negativity come from this uncertainty too, but that's the price, isn't it? The final moment, however, when Maia's Destiny makes it clear that this "chance encounter" was actually part of her destiny after all... my feelings are mixed about that. I sort of wish there had actually been something that was totally off script for Maia - I wish that this one weird happening had actually been out of the reach of the Destiny office. But I guess nothing really is, is it?

Monday, March 23, 2015

He Ate the Sun

Play #69 - He Ate the Sun by Sheila Callaghan

Oh Sheila… so poetic, so inscrutable! How do I love thee! He Ate the Sun is a set of variations involving Woman, Man, Boy, and a park bench. There are fifteen scenes in which the characters display various behaviors and relationships, repeating lines and themes and ideas and motions. Seeds are planted and uprooted. There are so many possibilities around these people. Whether reading the paper or running or slow dancing or circling each other or discussing the boy who ate the sun or the man who ate the moon…  maybe the Man and Woman are married, maybe she is having an affair with the boy… maybe none of that is true. The sun and the moon are gravitational forces keeping these people orbiting each other.

One thing that I find kind of cool about this script is the stipulation that there are to be no blackouts. That poses an interesting challenge in the staging. I imagine a sort of freeze and rapid rewind - an active representation of the ongoing gravitational pull that holds these three people in their orbit. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Transit Plays

Play #68 (Make-up #15) - The Transit Plays by Sheila Callaghan

The Transit Plays is really a collection of five short plays loosely connected by a common interest with modes of transportation, but I’m going to post them as one play. The tone of these plays is sort of ethereal and contemplative – perhaps attempting to point to something essential about the experience of traveling by each of these modes of transportation in a world that never really stops moving anyway. It would be difficult to say that anything really “happens” in any of these plays, if you’re looking for traditional Aristotelian or realistic notions of plot. But there is certainly a lot going on – most of which I’m sure I’ll miss on this cursory read. But at least I’m in the spirit! I read these plays and wrote this response on an airplane!

The titles, in order, are Plane, Boat, Car, Bike and Train. In Plane, Jack, Brenda and Thomas are all sitting on an airplane – is it about to take off? Are they always already in the air? Brenda observes the cornerless uniformity of the surroundings – nothing sharp, everything carefully planned and contoured. She seems to find this comforting. Jack, on the other hand, is pretty sure they’re all going to die.  Thomas can’t stop eating/regurgitating luggage (though it’s checked rather than carry on, so he should be perfectly fine), and he seems disturbed by the lack of corners to define and delineate differences and progress.

Boat is a strange sort of cycle play in which Jessica, Karen, and Henry move through five variations on standing and waiting on a ferry. There are certain ingredients that remain the same – Karen removing her shoes, the presence of newspapers, peering over the railing of the ferry – but there is always some important difference. Maybe one of them jumps overboard. Maybe one of them is thrown. Maybe there is a catastrophe. Maybe they are all dead already. Callaghan specifies that everything happens very slowly in this play. Perhaps the sloth and repetition are unavoidable on the plodding ferry.

The entirety of Car is a monologue by Megan, who is talking on her cell phone while she drives somewhere. She switches between calls, she discusses her own chronic sense of discomfort, she speaks to a refrigerator repair man who, it seems, has already arrived at her home when she gets there. It is not enough to be traveling from one point to another, she must always already be in multiple places at all times. And the final moment, when she reaches up to touch the repair man’s face is a sort of lovely, grounding moment where she is finally allowed to be where she is and nowhere else.

Bike is another monologue by a character named Gunther who sits on the grass beside his bike watching for his ex-girlfriend and feeling the frustration of her absence or her anger or her betrayal… or her something. Though a person does ride by on a bike, Gunther only sits beside his. When he does finally ride off at the end, a church bell rings once (having rung many more times earlier in the short script), and it begins to snow. There is a sense of a new beginning possible in this ending.


Finally, there is Train, in which Wallace sees the melon-bodied, repulsive Joe stomping up the aisle toward him. He is immediately disgusted by the smelly, overweight, dirty man, so when Joe falls in the aisle, Wallace pretends not to notice. Joe notices Wallace pretending not to notice and tries to give him more chances to reach out to help this fellow man. Because Joe knows that he has tar in one bag and “flight” in the other, and that if Wallace does not help him, there will be consequences. Unfortunately, Wallace reaches out to Joe just one moment too late, so his feet are already tarred to the ground, and a pigeon flies pecks out his eyes. In the end, he falls on top of Joe and they dissolve into the floor together as one grotesque mess – finally the same.

In transit, sometimes we are pressed together among strangers, sometimes we are alone, sometimes we move quickly, sometimes we stagnate, sometimes we find what we are looking for, sometimes we don’t. The painful poeticism of these pieces points to a dissatisfaction in this world of constant motion that I find interesting. I would love to see a staging of these plays together, to see the ways in which they pick up each other’s refrains, creating a strange sort of ode to motion.

Attendant

Play #67 - Attendant by Caron Levis

This is a charming little play - and there's a pretty engaging monologue at the beginning as well! The play starts out with Tally coming out of the stall in a restroom at a chic club, probably in New York or some such large, metropolitan, overpriced city. As she goes to wash her hands, the ladies room attendant, Penny, steps forward and quickly squirts soap in Tally's hands. This starts Tally on a bit of a rant: she hates these awkward bathroom situations with an attendant who expects a tip, but she doesn't have any money to tip, and she feels bad, and the whole situation is just uncomfortable. Then, a fairly inebriated Bill stumbles in. Apparently the party at this club is in his honor, and he's been enjoying himself quite a bit. He and Tally met upstairs, and now that he sees her again, he is absolutely taken with her. Penny, ever the consummate professional, repeatedly asks him to leave, as this is the ladies' room, but to no avail. His insistent seduction of Tally continues, despite Tally bringing up his wife (who she met upstairs) and his son (whose picture she was shown). He continues to push, dropping twenty after twenty into the tip bowl so that Penny will turn her back and he can have just a kiss. Tally starts to succumb until she catches Penny's eye in the mirror and thinks better of it. This resistance, as you might guess, does not make Bill happy, so he starts to get aggressive. In a flash, Penny leaps into action and beats the crap out of Bill. As he slinks out of the bathroom, he tries to retrieve his money from the tip bowl, but Tally stands in his way - not on your life, dude. Now alone, the women calmly wash their hands together, a new understanding and appreciation between them.

The end is just a little bit silly, but it's kind of cool to think about a deeper life for these people who are so often either invisible or annoying or frustrating or whatever they may be.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Status Update

Play #66 - Status Update by Jamie Pachino

Ah technology. We just can't seem to trust it, but boy... we can't live without it. In Status Update, Bobby and Liz are in bed together as Liz contemplates whether or not to set her facebook relationship status to "In a Relationship." It's a big deal, this public declaration to her 742 closest friends. Bobby, who doesn't have a facebook and doesn't let her post photos of him, doesn't get the gravity of the situation. He prods her about the bizarre phenomenon of having 742 friends and this prodding progresses into a bit of a fight. This fight prompts Liz to accept a friend request from an ex, but as she clicks through this ex's profile, she gets a little surprise: it turns out that Bobby not only DOES have an online profile; he also has another name... and a wife. His whole luddite act has been an attempt to keep his dating life separate from his married life. So Liz does the only thing she can think to do: she sends a friend request to his wife.

The short play is sort of cute, if a little contrived. I am sort of amused by the idea that the only reason anyone would not have an online presence is if they are fictional.

Small Talk

Play #65 (sort of) - Small Talk by Annie Sizemore

Today, I was at the MATC conference pretty much all day, so I didn't really have time to sit down to read a play. That said, I read, watched, and generally interacted with SIX new scripts today. I performed in a staged reading of Teenage Jesus by Matt Fotis and watched a staged reading of An Incarnation of Silence by Andy O. Vaught. Then, this evening, I watched cold readings of Mavis Rents a VHS by Joseph Stollenwerk, Physics and Tea by Ross Peter Nelson, and Small Talk by Annie Sizemore; and I performed in a cold reading of The New and Improved Business Model of Chunks and Bits by William Palmer. I even met a playwright who has promised to send me one of her plays for me to blog about later! So it was a good day as far as new plays go. Still, in the interest of keeping up my 365 plays by women in 365 days... here's a little info about Small Talk by Annie Sizemore:

It was a cute little piece in which Patrick is waiting at a coffee shop for a date that we find out later is with his brother's former college girlfriend, who he finally felt comfortable setting up with Patrick because of his successful marriage. Gee... sounds like a dreamy start to a relationship, eh? Well, Patrick is more than a little awkward, so he's sitting in the coffee shop waiting for his date and practicing possible opening lines. When a woman (Becca) sits down at the next table, he does check to see if she is the date, but when she turns out not to be, he asks her advice on his opening lines - she soundly rejects them both. They go on to talk about dating and fakeness, she gives him advice, and, when his date actually arrives, he appears to take the advice as he goes over to her. Of course, however, his exchange with Becca has changed his perspective, and he sent the late, inconsiderate chick packing so that he could ask out Becca instead. It was, as the playwright admitted, a bit cliche, but charming nonetheless. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Beautiful Grandmother

Play #64 - My Beautiful Grandmother by Amina Henry

This is a strange, sweet, melancholy little play about an unusual meet cute at a laundromat. Shirley is 76, Joe is in his 20s. When Shirley strikes up a conversation, Joe has no idea where it's going to take him. It turns out that Shirley has been quite lonely over the last 15 years since her husband died. She feels like she's invisible, but she still has so much life inside of her. So she asks this handsome young man to come home with her to have sex - for $800. Joe refuses over and over, baffled by the request. But Shirley persists - she is a sensual person, this may well be her last chance to have sex, she feels like she sees something remarkable in him, this would be a great act of kindness. A production of this play would have to be careful not to poke fun at Shirley, as it would be easy to do. This is a funny situation in that it is unexpected, but it needs to not be TOO funny. She is a human being with needs and feelings, reaching out to another human being because she believes that there could be a connection there. And she believes that it could benefit him as well - that the kindness he shows to her now will radiate through him, will make him attractive to other women. It's sad to think about the ways in which the elderly can feel like they are disappearing long before they ever actually pass away. And this could, in the right hands, be a kind of fun, insightful exploration of that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ripen Our Darkness

Play #63 - Ripen Our Darkness by Sarah Daniel

This was a really interesting play about a bunch of women living in worlds completely dominated by men. First we meet Mary, whose husband David works for the local parish. He and their three grown sons, it seems, are all but entirely incapable of doing anything around the house on their own (the mysteries of making toast or cereal, for example, are completely lost on them), or of understanding that the things that Mary does actually do take time and effort. Then there's Rene, whose drunken husband Alf holds her and their grown daughter Susan (who just had a baby born with a fatal birth defect) in a constant reign of terror. Alf ends up choking to death on a scone, leaving his wife and daughter feeling free for the first time. Both families allude to a daughter - Anna and Julie respectively - of whom they do not speak. It turns out that Anna and Julie both ran away from their homes and are currently in a relationship and living together. We also meet Roger (the vicar of the parish) and his wife Daphne, first when Roger comes by to check on Rene and Susan after the loss of the baby, and next when Roger and Daphne have come to David and Mary's home for a game of Monopoly. The conversations that the male characters have around these women are reprehensible - all about how silly or stupid or unreasonable they are. They completely ignore any sense of genuine emotion or intelligence in their wives. In order to deal with Mary's "condition," David decides to send her off to a retreat for women married to churchmen - of course this retreat turns out to be entirely silent, so Mary sneaks off to visit her daughter. Once she understands the life Anna is living, she is actually quite thrilled for her - proud that she has found her way without a man. But despite Anna's prompting that she should leave, Mary does return home, but having made the decision that life will now be lived on her terms. This, unsurprisingly, devolves quickly, as David brings in Marshall - a psychiatrist - to examine her. Marshall blames her for her daughter's "choice" of the necessarily unfulfilling lesbian lifestyle, and tells her that she is a phallus-obsessed loony in deep need of counseling. She tells him she's pretty sure he's the one who's obsessed with penises, and he storms out. She is later informed by her husband that Marshall has recommended that she be committed to an asylum that night. Having had enough of this, Mary writes a letter to Anna about how proud she is, and she calmly puts her head in the oven. When she awakens in the next scene, she is certain that she's been committed, but it turns out she is actually dead. This information comes to her from a trinity of women who explain that paradise is reserved for women like her who have lived difficult, miserable lives. They scoff at the masculinist Biblical mythology that puts these two-dimensional men at the center of everything, and they give her the option to do anything she wants - including to go back. She opts to go back - but not to her life. Instead, she seems to choose to haunt her husband as he plays a game of Monopoly with Roger (who has just recently institutionalized his own wife). But, much like in life, he only barely notices her, and she is left to wonder what on Earth is the point!

This would be a difficult, but interesting play to deal with in production. Daniels seems to come down pretty clearly on the "men are the problem" side of the spectrum. But what I think would be important is the realization that it is this type of man - this type of man who belittles and makes women invisible in their own worlds - that is the problem. The first scene is really pretty hilarious, as David proves himself utterly inept at every turn. And the brief peek at the afterlife is kind of a great payoff after watching all these women so put upon in life. Producing this play would take a careful balance between not making the men in the audience feel attacked, but still communicating the responsibility carried by having the power in society. And it would also be really important not to overplay the absurdity of the women's situations to the point of silliness. The early 1980s-ness of the play also might be a little tough to work around. But there are a couple of interesting monologues in here though - so I'll have to hang on to those for sure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Turtle Beach

Play #62 - Turtle Beach by Aoise Stratford

This is a cute little play about the emotional toll of motherhood as told by two sea turtles - May and Beverly - coming ashore to lay their eggs. Beverly is an old hand at the process, having made this trek 19 times so far, but May is a first-timer. She is full of wonderment and idealism, taking time to pause and look at the beauty of the moon and the beach and whatnot. Beverly wants nothing to do with all this impracticality. Her only goal is to work her way over to the dunes, dig out a nest, lay her eggs, and head back to the safety of the sea. But this is precisely the issue May is having: how can she leave her babies so far from the safety of the sea? How can she leave them at all? How is that fair? Beverly explains that this is just the way it works for turtles, and that all of motherhood - for all species - is pretty much a cocktail of risk and hope. 

Yog Sothoth

Play #61 - Yog Sothoth by Lia Romeo

Meet Alice and Brian. They are a typical, lovely, upper-middle class couple with a baby boy and another bun in the oven. They have just moved out of New York City to a very desirable suburb, "possibly somewhere in Connecticut." While she was out and about today, Alice met her neighbor Sibyl, so this evening, Sibyl and her husband George have decided to drop by to say hello. There is the usual idle chit chat - primarily about how nice and safe this neighborhood is - especially after leaving the dangerous city behind. However, it's not long before the neighborhood association business comes to the forefront. The lawn, you see, it's not quite up to snuff. And the shutters, you see, there is some paint peeling on the corners. And then, you see, there's Yog Sothoth. Yog Sothoth, it turns out, is a creature that lives in the sewer under the development, and it is appeasing him that keeps this neighborhood safe and clean. And how do they appease him (aside from, apparently, slipping him the latest Danielle Steele novels)? Well, it turns out Yog Sothoth loves babies. It's right there in the neighborhood association's guidelines: each family must sacrifice their firstborn to Yog Sothoth. Of course, Alice and Brian protest, but George and Sibyl explain that all this safety and all these niceties don't come with a price. Finally, they take the baby, assuring Alice and Brian (at gunpoint) that this really is a very nice place to live.

This play reminds me so much of that one episode of The X-Files where Mulder and Scully pretended to be married in order to find out what was going on in this idyllic little community. It turns out that the homeowners' association had raised a demon that would kill you if your home wasn't up to code in any way. It's a fun reductio ad absurdum of the suburban dreamscrape. And particularly in this post-9/11 world, what price are we willing to pay for the feeling of security?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Madrigal in Black and White

Play #60 - Madrigal in Black and White by Patricia Montley

This short play shows a quick, seemingly simple exchange between Liz (who is white) and Cleo (who is black). Liz is outside mowing her lawn when she notices an unfamiliar, seemingly empty car in front of her neighbor's driveway. As she approaches, she notices that the car is not actually empty - Cleo is sitting inside. They begin to talk about the niceties of finding an unattended vehicle with its lights on, they introduce themselves, they discover that they are both teachers - Liz teaches choral music and Cleo teaches Shakespeare, and they even consider collaborating on some Shakespearean songs for Liz's choral students. It's really a pretty boring, normal conversation that could happen in any suburb in America. However, both Liz and Cleo are accompanied by their shadows who speak their inner thoughts as the conversation progresses. Liz's Shadow lets fly with white guilt and mistrust of unknown minorities and general bizarre stereotypes. Cleo's Shadow just knows she is suspect, knows her education is unexpected, knows there are bizarre stereotypes flying left and right. The Shadows beg their conscious selves not to engage in this weird partnership with these women they just met. They berate their conscious selves for their naivete, their political correctness, their internal insecurities. It's a sort of fun, sort of painful little look at the messy social subconscious that we all carry with us whether we like it or not.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stick Fly

Play #59 - Stick Fly by Lydia R. Diamond

At the beginning of Stick Fly, we meet brothers Flip and Kent who are bringing their girlfriend and fiancee to their family home in the vineyard to meet their parents. The LeVay family is a very well-to-do African American family - a family that has had every possible advantage in life. The patriarch of the family, Joseph, is a neurosurgeon, Flip is a plastic surgeon. We don't know what Mrs. LeVay does for a living, but she comes from a long line of money. Kent brings home his fiancee Taylor whose biological father was a prominent scholar of the same economic class as the LeVays, but she had no relationship with him after he left her and her mother. This makes her uncomfortable with the affluence of the LeVays. Flip is bringing home his girlfriend Kimber, who studies inner-city dynamics and the achievement gap. Though he is concerned that his mother won't like her, because Kimber is white. Also in the mix is Cheryl, the daughter of the family's long time maid Ms. Ellie, who has recently taken ill. Mrs. LeVay never shows up, however, and Joseph dodges and dodges the reason for her absence. In the meanwhile, the dynamics ebb and flow with a believable feel as family and personal issues bubble to the surface. We learn that Taylor and Flip actually had a one night stand six years ago. We see right away that Joseph is disappointed in the fact that Kent hasn't yet found himself a stable career (he is particularly disapproving of his latest endeavor as a writer - though his first book is about to be published). We see Taylor's discomfort with Kimber, who tends to speak all too knowingly about the difficulties that face African-American youth in education. In the end, it turns out that Ms. Ellie didn't show up because Mrs. LeVay had threatened to fire her when she discovered recently that Cheryl is actually Joseph's daughter - something that Ms. Ellie chose to tell Cheryl over the phone this weekend.

One of the things that I think is particularly difficult about writing a family drama is creating a world in which the people who are related seem related without all sounding the same, and the people who are not related feel just outside enough from the family unit. This is something that I think Diamond does very well. Relationships are very clear in her writing. The way she builds the minor conflicts is effective in diverting the audience's attention, while planting just enough seeds about the Cheryl/Joseph relationship. It doesn't feel full of histrionics, but genuinely familial. And, as they point out about Kent's novel, it is the specificity and detail of a personal story that can achieve a universally accessible feeling. There are also some decent monologues in here, so that's always a bonus!

Oh - and my favorite line. It's one of Taylor's insights on relationships: "Also...black men are almost never serial killers, they dress well, and usually can dance."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Waffles

Play #58 - Waffles by Martha Garvey

Today was a surprisingly busy day. So I decided to go for another short play. Waffles is a sweet, compelling scene about a young-ish married couple - Betsy and Joe - ordering dinner at a diner. Joe is having a bit of a hard time remembering some salient details, however, because he has a brain tumor. He keeps notes on cards and even on his skin to try to keep track of things, but it never quite seems to be enough. They try to stay positive and supportive for each other, but that never quite seems to be enough either. Betsy, it seems, was told by their Slavic oncologist that brain cancer is like syrup on a waffle - you can turn the waffle on its side and scrape off all the syrup, but the syrup has already seeped into the waffle and changed it forever. And it is this change that they are having to deal with - regardless of the outcome of the illness. Can they do it together? Can they deal with the way it has fundamentally changed them?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Foreign Policy

Play #57 - Foreign Policy by J.J. Hunt

This is a fun little piece about mothers and daughters. Edna and her daughter Marilyn are visiting a tenement apartment that Edna has decided to move into now that her husband has passed. Marilyn is appalled at this decision, not only because of the dubious quality of the neighborhood and the apartment, but also because she and her husband have outfitted a beautiful, up-to-date mother-in-law apartment for her at their house. Edna is hell bent on maintaining her independence though. They argue and argue and argue while the landlady, Mrs. Park, alternately ignores them, pressures them, or lectures them. In the end, Mrs. Park ends up shooing them out, yelling that Edna does not deserve this apartment. The people who are coming next to look at it have lost everything due to war and other circumstances, and here Edna is throwing away a perfectly beautiful apartment because of pride.

There's a nice energy to this piece that feels very authentic to the mother/grown daughter experience as they navigate a shared loss in very different ways. Edna feels like she is just on her way to death, which is something that must be done alone - and she has never spent time alone. Marilyn, on the other hand, having just lost her father, is not ready to let go of her mother either. As Mrs. Park astutely points out, Marilyn needs her mother in a way that neither of them seems to recognize. It's a great portrait of two women with similarities that run too deep for them to be able to see them. And sometimes it takes an outsider to see us as we really are.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Child of the Movement

Play #56 (Make-up #14) - Child of the Movement by Cheryl Davis

Well... this play was disturbing in a whole different way from the last one. Although this, too, was based on a true story.

The scene is a living room in Montgomery, AL in 1955. A 56-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl are having a meeting because this 16-year-old girl was recently arrested and beaten for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. She is a polite, well-spoken, passionate, tough young woman, and the NAACP has seen her case as just the match they need to light the fire for the fight for civil rights. In this meeting, however, the girl confesses to the man that she has become pregnant. At this point, the whole tenor of the conversation changes. He no longer sees her as a good girl, a wronged child, a face of the upstanding African American. Now he sees a harlot, a ruined woman. He sees someone who can do nothing for the cause. She argues that she knows her rights, she believes in her rights, and she is still the same strong, smart person she was when they began the conversation, but he pushes her aside, sends her home, and assures her that history will forget her completely. Then, he gets on the phone to Rosa Parks.

The name of the girl to whom this situation actually happened was Claudette Colvin. What's particularly awful about this story is that the NAACP wasn't necessarily wrong in their estimation. If they had put a pregnant teenager up there instead of soft spoken, upstanding Rosa Parks, white naysayers would certainly have ignored anything she had to say, patting themselves on the back for being right about those loose morals. So this poor girl gets tossed aside because of a bad decision. This young girl was impregnated by an older man, and the man sitting in front of her accuses her of leading him away from his wife. After all, he tells her, "It's the woman's job to say no to the man." And if she doesn't, then she's filthy and wrong. The man remains above reproach - largely because he will bear no physical consequences from the encounter. No one can look at a man and no that he has participated in a pregnancy. But when a woman is pregnant, it's pretty much all you can see. What's even more awful, is that this is a stigma that women and girls still face today. The way society judges a woman who has sex outside of marriage is wildly disproportionately negative in comparison to the way it judges a man. This girl had something to say that was worth hearing, but she was silenced by the very people who had called her to speak, because she wasn't the "right kind" of woman. The hypocrisy is practically viscous. And unequivocally vicious.

Yeah... this is another play that people should see... and that should cause some people no small amount of shame.

What Mommy Told Me

Play #55 (Make-up #13) - What Mommy Told Me by Paula J. Caplan.

Well... this was a horrifying little play. I'm definitely going to need to read another one to wash this out of my brain. It's well written, don't get me wrong, just horrifying.

This play is about a mother whose young daughter was being sexually abused by her ex-husband - who also happens to be a police officer in their town. When the moment came in the trial for the girl to tell the judge what happened, she told him that she was just telling him what her mommy told her to tell him, which the judge interpreted to mean that the mother had fabricated the abuse in order to humiliate the father. What the little girl meant, of course, was that her mommy had told her to tell the truth. But the judge protected this officer who he knew so well against another one of these vindictive women, awarding full custody to the father, with only minimal visitation for the mother. When the little girl showed up to dance class with bruises, she reported more physical and sexual abuse, and when the social worker told the mother not to return the girl to the father, they were accosted by numerous police officers, and the girl was dragged screaming from her mother's arms. The judge harshly questions the social worker who fills in detail after detail, including the fact that the father's lawyer had been the one to issue the report that the mother had threatened the girl if she didn't tell the judge about the abuse. But again, the judge knows this lawyer, they are friends, and he backs him up, taking away all visitation rights from the mother and placing her under a gag order - she cannot even speak to anyone about the situation. The play ends with her crouching behind shelves in a Wal-Mart, where she had gone to get a box in which to send the daughter's favorite toy to her. You see, the girl and her step mother turned out to be there, and she could be held in contempt for being in the same place as her daughter.

And this play is based on a true story.

I seriously want to cry just typing the summary. It is a powerful story, and all too believable, based on some of the stories I have heard about friends' custody battles. When people in power only want to help each other, and not the people who their power is intended to protect... what then? As the mother says, "the truth is only the truth when the hearer wants to believe it."

Ugh. My heart hurts. People should see this play. And people who let things like this happen should be ashamed of themselves.

Dead Soap

Play #54 - Dead Soap by Bekah Brunstetter

Full disclosure - I started two other plays today, and I just couldn't get into them. Perhaps I will come back to them another day, perhaps they will remain dead to me, but if I can't get into your world some time in the first scene... I'm probably going to have to put it down and back away. Sad, but true.

Nonetheless...

Today's play is a short play in which we first see Coop and MacKenzie in what is clearly a sort of overdramatic love scene in which there are lots of references to other traumas involving missing parents, THE ACCIDENT...all that good stuff. An important part of their story is that he loves her even though he is hunky and she is a bit overweight. But, she confesses breathlessly, she has just had gastric bypass surgery... after which, he will love her even more! Then, there's a big "CUT!" and we discover that the two people we've just been watching are actually Ryan and Caitlin, two actors in a soap opera. It's Ryan's first day, and he's more than a little bit jazzed. Caitlin is more matter of fact, rushing off to use her break time to deal with her... physical needs. So, our eager beaver heads over to the make-up area, where he meets the long-time leading man Farley, who advises Ryan/Coop not to get too caught up in all the glitz and glamour. It's a great gig, after all, but it can all go away in an instant. He also lets Ryan in on a bit of gossip: the gastric bypass is not a plot device, it was an ultimatum to Caitlin: get skinny, or lose your job. As the original pair regroups, Ryan finds out that Farley has just been written off the show over a contract dispute. And as they take their places for the next shot, Caitlin asks the previously starstruck Ryan out... only to discover that, in real life, he is just not attracted to her.

This is really a play all about ideals and illusions. Farley seems to be the only one who is entirely past the power of the illusions - now that he is older, and on the other side of having his ideals crushed a wee bit. Coop and MacKenzie are complete illusions, full of excitement and non-socially-conformist love. But even Ryan's starry-eyed excitement can't get him past the fact that Caitlin is a little too heavy to date. Illusions are everywhere, but they don't remain in place for long. Just a 10-minute break proves to be enough.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

GEEK!

Play # 53 - GEEK! by Crystal Skillman

This production is a bit of a monster - it seems like it would be extremely difficult to stage, but as the playwright says in her introduction, "GEEK!, for sure, is a play all about the imagination - have fun imagining how this play moves on stage! Yay, theater!" GEEK! reminded me a lot of She Fights Monsters, but if possible, it may be even more ambitious. I mean, there are 32 characters, and it is written to be performed with as few as six actors... two of whom are the consistent lead characters. Whew! You have two cosplay girls - Danya and Honey - who are desperately trying to make it through the last hour of this huge convention to meet the creator of Dante's Fire. This is an (made up for the play) anime universe that they and their third cohort Ellen have been reenacting on camera - attempting to recreate every moment of the story in their own way. Ellen, Honey's sister, just killed herself, and Danya and Honey feel like they owe it to her to get to creator Samagashi and give her the videos that they made together. This is, of course, an easier-said-than-done situation, as the girls meet with resistance at pretty much every turn. There are evil guards and steampunks and cruel devil cat women and Timekeepers and Minotaurs and Goth Princesses and Miss Cosy and mean girls... it's pretty much every obstacle possible, all crammed into a relatively short play. The action jumps back and forth between the real action of the girls moving through the convention and the fantastic imaginary world of cosplay in which so many of the characters agree to live. It tests the bounds of reality and theatricality, and, with the right geeked-out production team, this show could really be an amazing amount of fun. There is a real love for the cosplay culture baked into this script, and I think that a similar love would be really helpful in the director and designers. Creating the scale of the con world within the scope of what most of us usually have for a theatrical budget... it would be a pretty great challenge for the right team of people. Honestly, I don't think I would be that person. The learning curve to get me up to speed on cosplay, anime, manga, etc... would just be a little too steep. But man, would I love to see it lovingly performed! Or maybe I just need a really bitchin' dramaturg on my team? Because the structure alone is the kind of theatrical challenge that I think defines the most exciting contemporary theatre. There's a sincere  heart at the center of these girls' journey, and a deep well of imagination in the telling of it. And there's Squeaker. I want to play Squeaker.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mission to Mars

Play #52 - Mission to Mars by Jeanne Beckwith

This is a disturbing little short play about, as the title suggests, a mission to Mars that has experienced some problems. Major Marty and Lieutenant Spike are currently on watch while their crew member Jane is in hibernation, and their other crew member Ralph is unexpectedly dead and frozen in the cargo hold. They were supposed to be followed by a maintenance module, but it is already quite late, and they haven't had contact with Earth in three weeks. Things are starting to get more than a little desperate. Marty tries to hold out hope and keep things together with procedures and rules, while Spike chooses a more cynical view of the situation, wondering what could have happened on Earth, since everything seems alright with their ship. They go through their checklists, and they argue about the what ifs, until finally, they decide to just keep going about their business until they just can't anymore. 

Just reading this script made me feel claustrophobic. Have you seen Gravity? Done well, this play could probably have some of the feeling of the witty banter portions of that movie. The stakes would have to be very carefully calibrated for this script to work. Done poorly, it could just be two guys ribbing each other while moving in semi-slow motion. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

So Tell Me About This Guy

Play #51 - So Tell Me About This Guy by Dolores Whiskeyman

This little ten-minute play is sort of frothy, and a little bit brilliant. Marla and Angie are having drinks while Marla tells Angie about her new relationship with Michael... sort of. In amusing 20-something gossip form, there is barely a single sentence finished: "He's so - he's just so, you know." And oh... she knows. Little bits and pieces about the relationship fall out, but more than anything, it just seems to be a quick exchange about relationship expectations - and how easily we are willing to succumb to them even when it might not be the best idea.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Be Aggressive

Play #50 - Be Aggressive by Annie Weisman

You know what's sad? This play is in a collection of plays, and on the back of the book... the title of the play is spelled wrong. I don't get how they let that happen. <sigh>

Anyway...

The action of Be Aggressive orbits the impending project to build a new freeway through a coastal development. Phil, father of Laura (17) and Hannah (11), is a consultant working on the project. Judy, mother of Leslie (17), is a leader of the movement opposing the construction. But what really sets the plot in motion is the death of Laura and Hannah's mother, the news of which kicks off the play. She was hit by a car while running along the construction zone, leaving her family to fend for themselves. Laura wants to go on working at the smoothie shop and attending cheer practice, but her father and Hannah keep trying to foist all of her mother's responsibilities onto her: she should make dinner, she should drive Hannah to Hebrew school, she should buy the groceries, she should always be there - ALWAYS. It's an awful lot of responsibility for a 17-year-old girl. So, when one of her fellow cheerleaders - Leslie - suggests that they sneak off to attend an advanced cheerleading seminar on the other side of the country, she is willing to go to almost any lengths to make that happen. When the girls take off, their parents are left to wonder, to worry, to collide from opposite sides of the freeway rift... but none of the issues end up mattering all that much in the end. The freeway dispute reaches a settlement, the girls come home (it turns out the brochure Leslie had was... a little outdated), life goes on. The crisis of Laura's mother's death set everything off kilter for a while, but a new normal has to establish itself. It just takes time to find it. And before it came along, it felt like it would never arrive, but it did nonetheless.

This is an interesting, energetic story about a search for identity in a world that has stopped making sense. The pace of the storytelling is a little frenetic, which I find appealing and could be a cool challenge in production. I might consider using some of these scenes or one of the monologues for work with undergraduates - it's definitely close to home for that age group. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chagrin Falls

Play #49 - Chagrin Falls by Mia McCullough

This is a thoughtful, melancholy piece that McCullough wrote because she was interested in looking at the people who do the things that are necessary but unpleasant in our society: people who slaughter animals for food, work in prisons, or serve in the military. The play takes place in the fictional town of Chagrin Falls, OK, which is home to one of the most active cattle slaughterhouses in the country as well as a death row prison. The bulk of the action takes place in the bar of one of the local inns, owned and run by Irene. The regular customers that we meet are Riley, who just retired after thirty years at the slaughterhouse; Henry, who is a chipper and naive guard at the prison with a pregnant wife; John, the town reverend; and Thaddeus, a disillusioned and surly guard at the prison whose mother has been dying of cancer for the last five years. Thaddeus is also having a relationship with Irene, who used to be his mother's best friend. Patrice, a young Vietnamese-American graduate student/reporter shows up to cover and witness the upcoming execution of Jonas Caldwell, who raped and murdered an eight-year-old girl. While in town, she interviews all of the other characters, trying to get a full picture of lives that are surrounded by death. Of course, most of the characters don't look at their lives that way. Irene is just doing her job providing services for people who come for the executions, Thaddeus is just doing his job when he has to tie down the extremities of the condemned, Henry is just doing his job guarding men in cages, Riley was just doing his job, slaughtering cows, Reverend John is just doing his job providing what comfort and counsel he can. But Patrice is more than she claims to be, as we discover when she does get a brief audience with Jonas. It turns out that she was on his jury, and she feels guilty for sending a man to his death. In the end, Jonas is dead, Riley offers to come work for Irene at the Inn and offers his house (haunted for him by the memory of his ex-wife) for her to live in, Thaddeus buries his mother and skips town leaving Henry to take his spot on the tie-down team for the first time and leaving Irene alone. There is a cost to staring death in the face every day - a cost that most of us will never have to face. But the people in this play carry that weight. And even Patrice, who has now witnessed an execution, will carry some of that weight with her forever.

The play poses tough issues of responsibility and the ugliness that we count on but usually don't have to face. And there are also a couple of pretty good men's monologues, so that could be useful to someone one of these days. Overall, I found the play ambitious and sensitive, shining a light on pieces of American life that most of us like to pretend aren't there. And there are moments, even in the depths of these rather bleak lives, that ascend to poetry, and that's pretty important too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Love Poem #98

Play #48 - Love Poem #98 by Regina Taylor

The characters in this tiny little play are Emmanuel, Mary the whore and Mary the wife (played by the same woman). There's a film noir feel to the whole thing, with first Emmanuel narrating, then his dramatic encounter with Mary the whore, followed by Mary the wife's narration. There is mystery and excitement to Mary the whore - she is covered in scars from her various lovers, she has been marked by life and when she sings, we can't help but hear the scars in her voice. Emmanuel is transfixed by her. Mary the wife, on the other hand, is faithful and reliable, but does not hold the mysterious appeal. But it turns out that Mary the wife has secrets of her own, and perhaps a little more in common with Mary the whore than her dear husband might think. This would be a great little piece to use when discussing atmosphere and genre with a class.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Flights

Play #47 - Flights by Susan Cameron

A sort of charming little ten-minute play about two old flames - Maggie and Carl - who run into each other at the airport. As they chat, they relate stories of past encounters, divorces, common friends, etc. The little secret that comes out - and only to the audience - is that Maggie had called Carl's home a few years ago when she was drunk and sad about an affair gone wrong, and that she had called to confess her love for him. But since then, they've moved on, and there's nothing left between them... or is there? And then, well, off they go to catch their respective flights. It's a sort of wistful piece, and the setting works nicely, with that sense of not really being anywhere that comes with being in an airport. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Freakshow

Play #46 - Freakshow by Carson Kreitzer

It's sort of difficult to describe this play. It's not easy to discern a plot per se. But the characters are all members of a traveling freak show run by Mr. Flip, and headlined by Amalia - a woman with no arms or legs. She is looked after by Judith who, when she was young, was the hit of the freak show as the dog faced girl. Nearby is the Human Salamander, perpetually in his tank, and the Pinhead, always singing away in his cage. Amalia is having an affair with Matthew, who ran away from home to be with her, but she is really in love with the Pinhead. Eventually, a girl named Louisa also joins the show after she falls in love with the Human Salamander. Time are changing as we follow this collection of misfits - people are less interested in the freak shows than they once were. Judith decides to leave to return home where she will take care of her sister, and Matthew leaves because Amalia tells him to. Louisa originally wants the Human Salamander to run away with her, but eventually she decides to come up with a fortune telling act so that they can be together on the road. In the end, however, Amalia and Mr. Flip are really all the other has left, and the Pinhead burns the show to the ground with a pack of matches left behind by Matthew.

Rather than a play about events, this feels more like a play about seeing people as people. It's a play about love - most of it unrequited. It's a play about finding where you belong and who you belong with. And, as you might expect, the freaks may well be the most human of us all. But still, this play would be quite a feat to stage if one were to go literal with it - in particular the tank of water would be tricky. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

One Hundred Women

Play #45 (Make-up #12) - One Hundred Women by Kristina Halvorson

Another little ten-minute play. This one is about roommates Kelly and Nina. They have had a good rhythm for the last two years - they're there when they need each other, but they don't get in each other's way. But lately, Kelly hasn't been around as much, since she's been seeing Christian. And Nina is finding it more and more frustrating to feel so pushed aside. It's really Nina's journey that we follow, as she's the one who gets a handful of monologues in which she gets to explain her loneliness and her search for understanding. In the end, she explains that she has a room inside herself where all the important women in her life live, and where all the versions of herself live too. And even though she wishes some other self would come to the forefront, it always seems to be the romantic. And that romantic Nina just lets those women fall away from her when a man comes along. And though she may have a more meaningful or deeper relationship with them, she always lets them go. It's a sort of false either/or that this play sets up - as if a friend having a relationship means that the friend is no longer a friend. I love the room of women within her, but I don't buy this sort of built in man-loss thing. It just seems hopelessly reductive. Still, her last monologue about the room might not be bad for a story piece. <shrug>

Hard-Boiled

Play #44 (Make-up #11) - Hard-Boiled by Deborah Lynn Frockt

Just a little ten minute play about a trio of young lawyers: Jackson, Mickey and Kramer (the lone woman). All products of the top law programs, all hired at the same time by the same big law firm, but tonight, one year after their hiring, they are out celebrating that one of them was made a junior associate: Kramer. The celebrating is going just fine until Mickey's jealousy rears its ugly head and he spouts off that Kramer only got the promotion because she's so hot. He storms off, Jackson admits that she's attractive, and he leaves too. It seems it's lonely at the top - especially for a woman.

I and You

Play #43 - I and You by Lauren Gunderson

Okay...I loved this play. Just, really loved this play. For the most part, it's a sweet, simple interaction between two high school kids: Caroline, who is out of school because of a long term illness, and Anthony, who shows up to work on a report about Walt Whitman with her that is due the next day. She is prickly and on guard in the beginning, not sure why he's there, not wanting to let any vulnerability show. And he is eager - he likes school, he likes Whitman, he likes jazz, he likes basketball. In fact, he had just come from a basketball game before he arrived at Caroline's house. Oddly, the game ended suddenly when one of the players collapsed on the court, dying suddenly. He didn't want to tell Caroline this, since death is something that she has to face pretty much all the time, but it does come out. As the play progresses, they, of course, become friends. They learn about each other's passions and dreams, they agree that Walt Whitman is pretty much a badass. They even get into a we bit o' kissin', as teenagers are wont to do. It's really a very sweet, straightforward play, but the final moment... I can't give it away, because it's too great and awesome... I really can't say much about it. But man, I just really loved it. The end came out of nowhere, but was really perfect and well earned by everything that came before. I would love to work with some students on this play - I think they would just eat it up.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lynette Has Beautiful Skin

Play #42 (Make-up #10) - Lynette Has Beautiful Skin by Jane Anderson

In this ten-minute play, Larry, Bobby and Lynette are out at a pizza parlor. Bobby and Lynette are a couple, and Larry is trying to tell them about the new girl he has been seeing - Judy. However, he isn't trying too hard to tell and they aren't trying too hard to listen. Bobby and Lynette do a lot more messing with each other's food, wrestling with each other, giggling, flirting, etc. They are only occasionally interested in what's happening with Larry - usually about the time that he says he should probably head home. But as Larry tries to get perspective on his young relationship, he forces Bobby and Lynette to reflect on the early days of theirs, which seems to leave them a little put out in the end. It's really a sort of problematic relationships as far as I can tell, since it mostly involves Bobby doing things that are designed to annoy Lynette, and Lynette telling him to stop. They remind me more of playful monkeys than of people who have been in a relationship for five years. Perhaps they realize that? I don't know.

The Last Time We Saw Her

Play #41 (Make-up #9) - The Last Time We Saw Her by Jane Anderson

This is a little ten-minute play in which Fran comes in to talk to her boss Hunter about the fact that she is gay. He tells her he has no opinion about this either way, but she continues: she would like to tell everyone in her division so that she can stop feeling like she's hiding something. The conversation then becomes about why she would bother telling anyone. Fran describes the distress she experiences, always fearing that the truth might slip out. Hunter poses increasingly odd and inappropriate questions, attempting to demonstrate that there is no real reason to discuss her sex life in the work place. What he doesn't understand, however, is that what she wants to discuss is her life, not her sex life. She has a partner of eight years who she refers to as her roommate. She hides from her coworkers, she feels like she is unable to be who she is. In the end, she is completely frustrated by Hunter's blunt, absurd questions about her physical pleasure and attractions. The play is a pretty effective little snapshot of the disconnect that occurs in this kind of conversation. Why does anyone need to know you're gay? Well... why does anyone need to know your wife is your wife, that your children are your children? The question is about identity, not about sexual behavior, and it is the identity that is being swept under the rug, using sex as the excuse.

The Internationalist

Play #40 - The Internationalist: An Elusive Comedy by Anne Washburn

This play is sort of difficult to read, and I don't mean that in the emotional sense that I have mentioned in some of the previous scripts. I just mean that , mechanically, it's difficult to read, because a good portion of the dialogue is in a made up language. The play is about a man named Lowell who has come to an imaginary Eastern European country to work in this office that does some sort of financial or marketing work. Most of the people speak at least a little English, some speak it better than he does, but he is the only one who does not speak the native language of the country, so when they all start taking off in their native tongue he and the audience are completely lost. Not much happens in the course of this play. He has a sort of brief, confusing relationship with Sara, the woman who does the filing at the office. He sort of meets the people he works with, but a bit of a crisis occurs when one of their coworkers disappears at a key moment, so he gets left out of the loop as they scramble. While he is sight-seeing, he comes upon an old woman in the catacombs of an old church who speaks no English, and it almost seems as if she mugs him, or maybe she's just a vision, or maybe they share a supernatural encounter of some kind? The events of the play are a little unclear, but I think that might be some of the point. The world is confusing, the audience will feel out of sorts - strangers in a strange land. That feeling of standing among a bunch of people who all understand each other, and having no way to participate - it's a frustrating but very relatable experience. And I do think it would end up being a sort of funny, sort of melancholy production in performance. But man, it would be damn near impossible to memorize!