Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Open Door

Play #111 - The Open Door by Hana Mironoff

16-year-old Vera is drawing when Mr. Frampton arrives, having been referred here by his sister for a nice rest to settle his nerves. She shows him her drawing of her aunt, which is apparently quite unsettling, and begins to explain to him why the doors to the garden are open so late in the year: it seems her uncle and cousin and their dog died a tragic death three years ago, lost in a big while out on a hunting trip. And her aunt, unable to deal with the loss, leaves the door open as late as she can each day, hoping that they will return. Some nights, she says, you can even still hear them singing an old song. When Vera's aunt comes to greet Mr. Frampton, she sends Vera to fetch him tea , and tells him what lovely hunting weather they are having. She suggests that her husband can take him hunting during his visit. Mr. Frampton is visibly disturbed by this conversation, outlines his many illnesses, and sweats profusely. When he hears an old song wafting in the doors, it is all too much for him and he dashes out...just as Vera's uncle enters, fresh from a lovely day of hunting. He wonders about the strange man who just rushed out, but Vera explains that he is terrified of dogs because of a night he spent hiding in a grave from some fierce dogs. Finally, when the aunt discovers Vera's drawing, she explains matter-of-factly that Mr. Frampton was taking up drawing as part of his therapy. And they all settle in to tea.

This play is based on a short story, and it's really pretty delightful. I love the image of the board rich girl creating her own entertainment out of the people who surround her.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Snow White Zombie

Play #110 - Snow White Zombie by Brenton Lengel

Okay, I know I said I was reading 365 plays by women... but this one has zombies. My hands are tied.

Also, it has recently struck me that I am very well versed in the plays of contemporary women writers, but not so much with the I will probably throw a few dudes in the mid from time to time. Ah...token dudes for a change!


It's 28 days after the zombie Apocalypse has come to Snow White's forest, and things aren't going too well. Prince Charming fights his way through the zombie hordes. So does Rapunzel...who seems to be quite the badass. When Prince Charming finds Snow White sleeping he kisses her and she awakens. Rapunzel points out the problem with that particular behavior at this point in time. But it seems Prince Charming tends to turn his charm on any woman in eyesight...possible zombie or not. Snow White wakes up all grateful, idealistic, and clingy. Rapunzel rolls her eyes and tells Snow White she can have him. But when the zombie wolves begin to advance, Snow White goes off on her own with hatchet in hand. Prince Charming gets distracted by Sleeping Beauty...who is also a zombie. He, of course, fails to notice this until Rapunzel saves him from being eaten with a well placed headshot. Good thing he's so charming!

I found this play really fun! The prologue would be such a fun exercise in stage violence. And pretty much any time you put a zombie in a story, I'm there.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Play #110 - Pussycat by Katharine Clark Gray

As Rachel hurries to an appointment, she passes a man who calls out "pussypussypussy," so she sprays him with pepper spray. It turns out, however, that Jeffrey was attempting to get a kitten out from behind some garbage. He is concerned that Rainy, as he calls her, has been attacked by a dog, and he wants to get her out to make sure she's alright. Rachel calls 911, trying to get help for the man she nearly blinded, and also trying to get out of there as fast as she can. But eventually, she gets pulled into the kitten drama as well, and they work together to try to rescue poor Rainy.

I love cats, and would definitely be the person on the street in a bathrobe and slippers trying to get the kitten out of the garbage, so I feel for Jeffrey in this play, and Gray does a good job with Rachel's evolution from reactionary and self-involved to invested in the kitten. It's not a terribly exciting play, but it's not a bad example of two different people coming together either. And if that coming together is over a kitten... well... that works for me!


Play #109 (Make-up #22) - Pieces by Lezlie Revelle

Claire is working on a puzzle when she is startled by the arrival of her husband John. John has been on deployment and wasn't scheduled to be back for another month. She can tell there is something strange about his return, but he brushes off her questions, trying to get her to enjoy the little time they have together. He helps her finish her puzzle (which is missing pieces) by putting a polaroid of her into the hole in the puzzle. Then, as there is a knock on the door, he has to leave, but he sort of disappears, and I got the feeling that this knock was the visit from an officer to tell her her husband had died.

It's a cute little script with some nice couple dynamics, and I'm kind of a sucker for that magical last goodbye trope.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finding the Way

Play #108 - Finding the Way by Natalie Bates

Zoe has brought her friend Lauren home for Thanksgiving but when they get there, things are a little different. It seems that Zoe's parents have found enlightenment... or at least her father Dan has, and he's brought her mother Dorrie along for the ride. No more leather or meat or milk or eggs or non-organic wine... there is a meditation garden out back and they'll be eating soybeans, squash, kale and tofurkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Dorrie tries to explain this lifestyle change to the girls, who are amazed, and Zoe seems unconvinced. But when Dan takes Lauren out to look at the meditation garden, Dorrie explains that he had been going through a difficult time at work and with his health, and that this experience of meditation and philosophy seems to have made him feel better, so she figures they should all go along with it. When Dan and Lauren return from the garden, Lauren feels brave enough to make the big announcement that was the apparent reason for this trip: Zoe and Lauren are in love and hoping to get married soon. Dan is appalled by this revelation, so Dorrie shoos the girls out of the house and lays down the law: love is love, and if he can't handle that, he'll be meditating out of his behind. He sneaks out to meditate as Dorrie celebrates with the girls... and pops open a little of the foie gras that Lauren brought.

It's a cute little play with a nice juxtaposition of a lifestyle revelation that is absolutely a change, versus one that is not... and the relative acceptance that comes with each. Dan expects everyone to just roll over and deal with his newfound respect for whales, and his spiritual guide Vida, but cannot deal with what is fundamentally true about his daughter... not to mention the great news that she found love. And it was nice to see Dorrie come back to herself from the submissive person she had allowed Dan to make her into... even if it does mean eating foie gras...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Mousetrap

Play #107 - The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

Okay, I have actually read this play before, but I figured I would post about it anyway, since I did re-read it today in preparation for directing it in the fall.

Mollie and Giles have inherited a large country home, and have decided to open a bed and breakfast, and this is their first weekend, so Mollie wants everything to be perfect. Of course, the weather is not cooperating, as there is a terrible blizzard raging outside. Still, the guests do appear one by one: an eccentric young man named Christopher Wren, a judgmental lady named Mrs. Boyle, a jovial former military man named Major Metcalfe, a tough young woman named Miss Casewell, and a mysterious (and unexpected) man named Mr. Paravicini. As they all talk, information comes out about a recent murder in London. Then, when Inspector Trotter arrives, he informs them that the murderer left this address at the scene of the crime, and they believe that his next target will be one of them. And thus unfolds a classic whodunnit. I won't go into who dies and who did it, but I will say that I HATE the ending of this play. After the big climax where they confront the killer, there's this scene where everything is explained (which is fine), but the final lines involve a burning pie in the kitchen... which just totally deflates any sense of suspense there may have been over the course of the play. I get the desire to return to normal, but come on, Agatha! Help a sister out here! Suddenly we're supposed to be in a sitcom? <sigh>

At any rate, the play itself has some potential. It will be performed in October, so we're hoping to get a bit of the Halloween crowd on our side. And it really is important to me to find a way to create a genuine sense of menace and suspense... so that's my goal! And now... back to the analysis!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Jennifer Bourne Identity

Play #106 - The Jennifer Bourne Identity

Jennifer is the perfect housewife. She is skilled and quick and hyper-attentive to any need that her family might have. Her husband Rob is a little less in-touch with things, but she keeps him on track. However, this morning she starts to wonder how she managed to get so good at all these things: cleaning and multi-tasking and wrapping amazing packages for children's birthday parties. It's supposed to feel sort of like the Bourne Identity - I don't remember learning all these amazing skills... how did I get like this? Rob tells her there was once a time when she could relax like he does. He tries to get her to sit on the couch and zone out in front of the TV, but she finds it too unstimulating. She can't leave her busy life like that anymore.

I can't quite tell what I think about this play. I think if it were played very tongue in cheek it could work, but if it's played too earnestly, then there's a sort of "mother as pinnacle of womanhood" angle that is unappealing to me. I think it might be intending to make fun of that idea, but it may have ended up supporting it? I'm not sure. I would want to see it to get the real vibe.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Play #105 - Bazookas by Sharon Goldner

This is a play about a woman... and her boobs. She is trying on some clothes, and she has allowed her two boobs to come out and speak for themselves during this process. She laments that they never quite reached the size that she would have liked, she talks about that awkward summer between 4th and 5th grade when the first girls started getting their boobs... it's kind of adorable really. As much time as so many women spend dealing with their boobs over the course of their lives, why not have a play that gives them their own voice?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

O Guru Guru Guru

Play #104 - O Guru Guru Guru or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you by Mallery Avidon

First of all... amazing title, am I right?!?

This play is divided up into three sections. The first is a lecture by Lila, attempting to explain why she does not want to go to yoga class with you. She goes through the long history of her childhood in an Ashram - actually it turns out to be THE Ashram featured in Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat/Pray/Love. She talks about growing up with her hippie parents, living in a communal setting learning to love chanting and meditation. The twelve years she spent as part of the Ashram were some of the clearest of her life - though there were times when she would return to her life in the "real world," where her classmates didn't quite get the girl who kept disappearing to India for months at a time. But as she weaves the intricate, intimate story of the Ashram, she explains that, for her, Yoga used to be a profound spiritual experience, and it is not something she wants to just do with a bunch of suburbanites with their matching yoga mat/bag/shoes.

The second section leads the audience through a Satsang (Sanskrit for Company of Truth). The Darshan girls (the girls who are in charge of decorating and leading the proceedings) each take a turn sharing experiences with different elements of the life of the Ashram - personal stories of service and meditation and chanting, etc. The coolest part of this section is that the audience is invited to participate in the experience. The space should be completely transformed from the lecture hall in the first scene so that it now resembles the Ashram. Some of them are invited to remove their shoes and sit on pillows on the floor. They are led in chanting and even meditation. It would be a pretty cool theatrical experience.

In the third section, Lila is on the set of Eat/Pray/Love as an extra, sitting beside Julia Roberts as the next shot is prepared. As they wait, they begin to talk about Julia's life (in particular her shifting priorities that have moved from awesome movie life to her husband and kids). Lila talks to her a little about the Ashram, and about her overall unhappiness and restlessness, and Julia listens kindly, offering insight and advice... and even some tacos.

The play is sort of wonderful in its desire to make sense of the way the Ashram tries to make sense of the world. The writing is so beautifully natural - Lila feels very real to me. The way she searches for words is so familiar and carefully choreographed by the writer. And, this is probably the least I've disliked Julia Roberts in a good long while!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Life on Mars

Play #103 (Make-up #21) - Life on Mars by Trish Cole

This play takes place in what may be a not-so-distant future as the very last living lesbian on Earth is being prepared to be shipped off to a penal colony on Mars, where all the other lesbians have already been sent for the crime of simply being lesbians. Since she is the last lesbian, this will be the last penal flight to Mars, and Earth will sever all ties with the colony. It's important to note that, in this world, it is very clear that this is a genetic predisposition, not a choice, as they have developed a genetic treatment to alter lesbians, making them into heterosexual women. This prisoner is handcuffed and dressed in orange prison garb, and is being escorted by a policeman who clearly does not think much of her. A reporter comes in her final moments to record a quick interview for the governmental archives, and the prisoner tries over and over again to get either of these people to treat her as a fellow human, not a defective, deviant other. She tries to talk to them about her wife, who did agree to being genetically altered, but neither wants to hear much. However, this reporter is more than she seems, as she also comes with a secret delivery. She manages to pass the prisoner a vial of something, which the prisoner describes as "life on Mars." Since science has effectively eradicated the jean that makes a woman a lesbian, and since the women on Mars will have no way to procreate, lesbians will effectively die off... but the vial... well... it has the ingredients to fix that little problem for themselves.

With all the conversations about marriage equality right now, this is a pretty scary image of the future. There is reference to a time when same sex marriage was legal... before it just wasn't. We don't get any details about how all of this happened, how homosexuality (lesbians in particular... there is no mention of homosexuality between men) was so deeply criminalized. But this "cure" that fundamentally alters a person at their genetic level... and jails them for that same genetic element if they fail to agree to that alteration... it's pretty horrifying. And with all the gay "treatment" centers out there, there is something chillingly plausible about these sci-fi circumstances. And the plea for basic human decency is so very necessary.

Books Not Now

Play #102 (Make-up #20) - Books Not Now by Kira Lauren

Her and Him are dividing up their books into three piles - Books now, Books not now, and Goodwill. It's the end of their marriage, and it's time to do the dreaded sorting. As they sort, they talk about some of the books, and eventually get into deeper territory about their marriage and the ways that they failed each other. It's a sad, simple conversation that ends up featuring a pretty nice monologue by Him. But more importantly, it doesn't overdramatize the situation. They loved each other, they had problems, there are still plenty of feelings and unfinished issues, but there's no yelling, no tearful reconciliation... just a little bit of understanding. Perhaps it's the kind that can only come when things are over, but at least it comes some time.

When Predator Dies

Play #101 - When Predator Dies by Catya McMullen

Alexander, Henry, and Jacob are waiting for their fourth roommate Anabelle to come home. They have some questions about some strange behavior she has been exhibiting lately. So when she walks in the door, they sit her down as if staging an intervention. It turns out that, for several nights, they have been hearing strange sounds coming from her room late at night, and strong odors too. Finally, she explains that she has been sitting up at night watching sad movies and cutting onions so that the can have deep, cathartic cries. She says this has opened her up artistically (she's a painter) and just makes her feel better. Henry and Jacob decide they'd like to try too, so the three of them sit around thinking about sad movie moments, cutting onions, and crying. They continue on to moments of great beauty - like the first time seeing the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, for example (I can totally identify with that, by the way). And eventually, Alexander finds his way into sobbing along with the group too.

I sort of loved his script. It's sort of silly and relatable in all the right ways. I like the dynamic of the roommates, I like the idea that Anabelle is manufacturing emotional catharsis for herself. I like the list of things that make them want to cry. And Anabelle actually has a pretty decent monologue to boot.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Play #100 - Sol by Lynda Green

June and George work in a small office in the middle of the jungle - it's a satellite office of sorts for the corporation Sol Systems. George is just finishing up his shift as June arrives for hers at sunrise. It's not clear exactly what they do here, but it involves pulling a lever and turning a large wheel every time a series of lights and alarms go off. They've apparently been doing this for a while, but today, June has had it. She arrives wearing unapproved clothing, and with a sense of frustration and defeat. George may be perfectly chipper, but June is miserable. The have requested a third person to work at the office, to relieve them from their rotating twelve hour shifts, but when the mail arrives (dropped from somewhere in a big canvas bag) with a letter denying their request (not to mention all of the mail that June had sent - opened and redacted), she is ready to leave. She begins to pack up, but George tells her there is no way for her to leave. It turns out that the company is bugging them, and that they will hunt her down and bring her back if she tries to leave. She argues that their job doesn't actually do anything, that the story that they are keeping the sun in the sky is just a ruse. So the next time the alarms go off, she refuses to pull the lever and turn the wheel, and she holds George at gunpoint to prevent him from doing so as well. At first, it seems that there was no effect... but then things start to get dark... what have they done?

People in a small office in a jungle, pushing a button to save the world every time an alarm goes off? Honestly, this is really just a truncated version of season 2 of Lost. But it could be fun - particularly if the lever and wheel are imposing enough.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Play #99 - Destiny by Patricia Henritze

Jody and May sit outside a reception hall drinking beer - Jody in her wedding dress, May in her bridesmaid's dress. Despite it being Jody's wedding, Jody seems a bit depressed. The two women chat about destiny and how they ended up where they did, and even consider running away to Alaska together. Finally, they are left sitting on the stoop, pondering the trip to Alaska that will probably never happen, and with the suggestion that May wishes Jody were marrying her instead of her husband.

There is a sort of wistful charm about this little script. I particularly like the conversation about how we end up where we do. It is our thoughts, according to May, that shape our lives. However we look at the world is how it will be. Seems pretty insightful to me. And even for a play about someone who just got married, the conversation centers much more around these women and their lives than it does around the man of the piece, so I appreciate that too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Orangutan & Lulu

Play #98 - Orangutan & Lulu by Lisa Kenner Grissom

Orangutan and Lulu are wrapped in each other's arms, enclosed in a pool of light. Orangutan pulls Lulu closer and closer to him, until suddenly she decides it's too close and she needs space. She stretches, and tries to encourage him to stretch. As they talk, they slowly move farther and farther apart - even the light that encloses them splits and leaves a gulf between them as they talk about the passions that they do not share with the other. But eventually they find their way back to each other, still enclosed in a pool of light, but a larger one that allows for both of them to exist in their own way.

It's a poetic little piece about individual identity within the context of a romantic relationship, and lends itself to some interesting staging. I think this would be a delightful addition to an evening of one acts.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Play #97 - Redemption by Lisa Bruna

He is in a deli, waiting on his date to come back from the bathroom. She is his ex-girlfriend who decides to interrupt said date. They banter back and forth, until She comes to the crux of her seeking him out. It seems that, while cleaning out his old sock drawer, she came across a sexy valentine from the past that included a coupon redeemable for certain... romantic activities. Neither of them remembers giving or receiving the card, but both assume it was from the other. They argue a bit, seduce each other a little bit, taunt each other a little bit, and in the end, when She points out that his date has clearly left him in a lurch, they decide to take the coupon out for a spin.

The script isn't bad - it's kind of a cute exchange that might be good for undergrad actors. But I wouldn't say it's a particularly original scene either. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gold Star Mother

Play #96 - Gold Star Mother by Cynthia Robinson

On Mothers' Day, Ann is in her son Samuel's room folding his laundry when her husband Robert comes home. He is the pastor of a local church, and is disappointed that she missed the service again today. She explains that she just got caught up in cleaning and didn't want to show up late. He tells her to put off the cleaning for some other day - she refuses. He offers to take her to lunch and - she refuses. As they talk, it comes out that, six months ago, they were told that their son Samuel was killed in combat, and that Ann has not accepted the loss, largely because there was nothing left of him to bury. She insists first that they can't really know that he is dead, and then that it is a failing of God to allow this sort of thing to happen. Robert tries to convince her to pray with him, but she is angry and refuses. By the end, he collapses in tears and she goes to hold him.

Sometimes a short play is just too short to hold a big idea or emotional experience - this is one of those times. This is just about a ten minute play, and the idea that this exchange could be crammed into that short a time is a little difficult to swallow. There is just so much going on for both of them, it would be quite a ride for the actors and audience alike. Still, a heartfelt gesture toward a tragic set of circumstances that is all too common in recent history.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Buying the Farm

Play #95 - Buying the Farm by Lezlie Revelle

Okay... little old ladies can be awesome. Here, we have Gladys, Myrna, and Vivian (all over 60) who are talking to a young reporter named Ruth about what it's like to realize that you are old. They talk about feeling invisible, the crazy things they did to try to retain their youth, or to make themselves feel seen. Mostly they act a lot older and feebler than they really are to get attention - even sneaking into nursing homes just to have some conversation. But today, they're taking things a little further. They've decided to rob a bank so that they can have the capital to buy a farm to turn into a commune for old people like them. Ruth is first disbelieving, then appalled. But when she finds out about the fourth member of their team - her own grandmother - she changes her tune and agrees to help them.

It's sort of a fun twist on the 60-is-the-new-whatever idea. Certainly 60 isn't nearly as old as it once was, but the way our society worships youth, there is a lot of truth to the feelings of being ignored or invisible that the women describe. So heck, why not take advantage of it?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Key

Play #94 - The Key by Vivian Neuwirth

Anne and Davi stumble in the door of Anne's apartment after what has clearly been a night of a lot of laughing, and not a small amount of drinking. Anne lives here in New York, Davi is here from Israel visiting his friend Chaim. Anne and Davi are very drawn to each other, but each time that Davi tries to make a move, Anne seems to resist. Eventually it comes out that Anne is not exactly what she seems. Her family is Palestinian, and when they moved to the states, they all but erased that part of their identity - they claim to be French, they speak no Arabic in the home, etc. This revelation is difficult for Davi, who is an active soldier in the Israeli army. They argue, but also manage to reach something of an accord. Then, after spending the night sleeping beside each other, Anne gets up to go to work, making plans to meet Davi for lunch at the famous restaurant at her office - in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. And, you guessed it, it's a September morning. Fade to black.

Let's be honest - this piece was a little heavy handed for my taste. The secretly Palestinian woman doesn't think that's going to be an issue when she brings home the Israeli soldier she just met? She has kept this secret for how long, and it comes out like this? And then, the fact that they stay together, that's supposed to be some sort of hope for peace? And then, of course, toss in a little 9/11 for good measure, providing a heinous backdrop for that sublime moment of peace. The characters are kind of flat; they never develop beyond metaphors for me. And the 9/11 suggestion at the end... sort of emotionally manipulative. My Master's thesis was about post-9/11 theatre, so I do have an awful lot of thoughts about plays dealing in this subject. And for my money, it's an earnest attempt, but not one I would recommend to anyone.

A Recipe to Remember

Play #93 - A Recipe to Remember by Celeste Koehler

Monica and Deirdre are sisters whose mother is suffering from Alzheimers. Having agreed not to put her in a home, the women take Mother for three months at a time. Now, Deirdre has called Monica over in a frenzy, even though she still has three weeks to go. Mother has been particularly difficult, finally culminating in Deirdre and her husband realizing at an inopportune moment last night that they were not alone. They agree to start looking at homes, and Monica gives Deirdre the afternoon off. As she sits with her mother, she reminisces about when she taught them how to make apple sauce.

I tend to steer clear of stories about dementia or Alzheimer's, but I gave this one a shot anyway. It's really not bad, and pretty accurate in terms of the balance between despair and frustration and laughter that comes with dealing with such a cruel disease. The realationship between the sisters could have been clearer, but the final moment when Mother feeds Monica a spoonful of apple sauce just broke my heart.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Straight White Men

Play #92 - Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee

Ed has three sons - Matt, Jake, and Drew. Jake is a businessman, Drew is a successful academic, and Matt, the eldest, is an idealist who has moved back home to take care of his father. The boys were raised by a politically conscious set of parents who explained to them the problems of white male privilege - a lesson that Matt in particular has taken deeply to heart. They even play a board game called "Privilege" that their mother had made out of a Monopoly set when they were kids. It's sort of genius. The play takes place from December 24-26 some year in the now-ish period, and as the men come together for Christmas, they end up confronting the issues that come from Matt's decision to move home, working as a temp for an activist organization. The scenes of family interaction are kind of great, with stupid boyhood pranks and great shared jokes - sometimes in the form of songs - peppering the stage. But when they all finally deal with the fact that Matt is unhappy, not because he is so devoted to his beliefs that he won't allow himself to be happy, but because he's sort of a loser, it turns out not to be the happy family holiday it had started out to be.

One thing that really interested me in the introductory matter to the play, but that never played itself out to my satisfaction, is the character of the Stagehand-in-Charge. This character is intended to be played by a transgender or gender-non-conforming actor. He or She or Ze introduces the show, and then oversees the scene transitions. The problem is that, after the introduction, the SiC never speaks again. I sort of felt the desire to check in with the SiC from time to time. I guess it could be a statement about the relative silence of the "other" in comparison to the central story of the Straight White Men, but, I guess that, not being a straight white man, I was sort of more interested in the SiC's take on things.

It's interesting, not a lot really happens per se - it's not terribly plot driven in that sense. But the air is thick with the assumptions that straight white men are able to make in the world. It turns out that failure to benefit from white male privilege for the sake of the greater good might be noble, but the same failure on its own is unacceptable. If you already have a great education, and someone who is willing to pay off your student loans, and all the charisma in the world, then what right do you have to be a failure for no good reason?

Friday, April 10, 2015

In the Ninth Month

Play #91 (Make-up #19) - In the Ninth Month by Maiken Wiese

This is actually a pretty funny little play about Joan - a VERY pregnant woman who has come out to a cocktail party. At this party she runs into her friend Anya - a skinny, sexy, professional woman in her 20s who talks about having a baby like an accessory or a chihuahua. She also runs into Maggie and Fred - who know EVERYTHING that anyone ever needs to know about babies. Maggie has all sorts of opinions about childbirth and child rearing, and she has no problem telling everyone about every single one of them. Fred, on the other hand, spends most of his time with his ear or mouth pressed up against Joan's belly, speaking in simpering baby talk to the fetus. And then there's the cater water, who either ignores Joan, or lectures her about how she can't have wine or non-pasteurized cheese. Finally, just when Joan thinks she can't take it anymore, in comes Perpetually Pregnant Woman, the estrogenic superstar! She freezes time and teaches Joan a few key phrases to take back her autonomy in this social situation, which, once the party is unfrozen, Joan takes full advantage of.

I have often talked to pregnant friends of mine about the weird behaviors they encounter from other people, and I feel like most of them would probably have enjoyed a visit from this estrogenic superstar at one time or another.


Play #90 - Halfway by Emily Schwend

Melissa is visiting her sister Kat in the kitchen of the halfway house where she has just started living. Not a lot of information is given: it seems that Kat was in jail, she is now in AA or NA, she has a young daughter named Hailey who is now living with Melissa, and their mother is in physical therapy. It's a brief but heavy conversation in which Kat expresses her sincere hopes that she is going to make things work, find a job, get back on her feet, pay Melissa and Peter (their brother? Melissa's husband?) back, and get custody of Hailey. Melissa is hesitant in all of the conversation, not wanting to run away down a path of false hopes. And their conversation is left very open - who knows where things will go from here?

I found that I had a lot of questions coming out of this little play. What is Peter's relationship to the women? Is their mother's physical therapy at all related to why Kat was in jail? I'm not sure whether these details are important or not, but I did feel like I was missing out. Maybe that was sort of the point - that this was just a tiny little window into a tiny little moment for these women. They know about their past, so maybe it's not important that we do. We just get to be silent witnesses for this one moment. I don't know. But it could be an okay scene for young actors.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Female of the Species

Play #89 - The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith

Okay, this play was sort of hilarious. Margot is a high-profile feminist writer whose influential books have included such magnificent tomes as Men are Awful and The Cerebral Vagina. For the past 35 years, she has been a prominent voice for feminist thought, but today, she is behind on her deadline and having some pretty awful writer's block. Then, in comes Molly. At first, Molly seems to be a fan, quoting passages and commenting on how influential Margot is. It's not until she starts to get emotional and pulls a gun that she shows herself for who she really is. Molly, it turns out, believes that Margot ruined her life. Molly was given up at birth, an when she recently found her mother, she discovered that she had been a devotee of Margot's, and had followed her advice to remove all burdens from her life. She was such a devotee, it turns out, that she had died underneath the wheels of a train, clutching The Cerebral Vagina to her chest. So Molly had taken a class with Margot, hoping to understand her mother better, only she ended up becoming a devotee as well, only to eventually be crushed when Margot told her she had no talent. So she came here today to kill Margot... but not too quickly. Then, Margot's daughter Tess arrives, having become so overwhelmed by her three children that she simply walked out and left them. Tess - the domestic family woman - has been a huge disappointment to her mother, and when she hears that Margot has been sharing this not only with Molly, but with her classes, Tess is in no hurry to help free her mother from her predicament. Next up, Tess's husband Bryan arrives, looking for Tess and trying to understand why she left. Bryan is pretty dim (with some delightful malapropisms), but ultimately offers some pretty deep insights into the whole situation... something of which Molly takes ample note. After Bryan, in barges Frank, who had been Tess's cab driver from the train station, and he came to give Tess a piece of his mind. It seems she had been a lousy tipper, and an even worse listener as he poured out his story about the wife who left him because he had been too sensitive, so he's decided to be the assertive man he's always wanted to me...something of which Tess takes ample note. Finally, in strides Margot's publisher Theo, and with him, a handful of deus-ex-machinas that wrap everything up into a tidy - if a little silly - bow as everyone prepares for a nice lunch.

The conversations in this play about motherhood and idealism and the power of a public voice and the fallacies made by assuming things about ourselves or others are all pretty interesting conversations, and Murray-Smith does a nice job of floating those ideas while peppering in enough ridiculousness to keep it from getting preachy or overwrought. I worry that a performance could get a little talky, but with the right energy, it could really be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New York, New York

Play #88 - New York, New York by Lane Bernes

The year is 2035. Thomas is sitting among the other New Yorkers in this subway car wearing his suit, his label (i-Banker), and his Chuck Taylors, which affix his feet to the floor until the train reaches his appointed stop (everything has been standardized and connected to their Metrocards ever since President Giuliani's second term, during which he invaded Mexico in search of weapons of some kind of destruction). Everyone else in the car wears their labels and Chucks too. Then, Lily (label: artist) gets on the train and sits beside Thomas. It seems they were having an affair, but had to stop because long term relationships are not good for productivity. But these reasons are no longer good enough for Lily. She wants to be able to stay with Thomas or to get off at whatever stop she likes or to be able to choose her own path. Thomas is terrified of the implications. They could be kicked off of Manhattan for good for talking like this. Why can't she just be happy the way things are. When Tony Kushner gets onto the train at one stop, Lily yells to him about the old days, and couldn't things be like they were, but he seems completely defeated, as he shuffles off the train at his stop. Still, Lily insists on making a change. When her stop comes, she refuses to get off. She wants to get off the train somewhere else, see something new, explore possibilities. And finally, she is able to convince Thomas to try with her.

This piece could come off as a little heavy handed - the artist against the world - but with the right level of stylization, it could really be a lot of fun. I particularly liked that a couple of Southern tourists who entered the train though Lily was so interesting until they found out she was a playwright - which terrified them. I do have a thing for a good dystopia!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On the Beach

Play #87 - On the Beach by Lucile Lichtblau

Phil and Claire (all I can see is the characters from Modern Family) are a couple in their 60s, hanging out on their favorite beach on some Caribbean island, just as they have every year for probably a good long while. Apparently things are on their way to changing though. It seems likely that this undisturbed little beach is soon to be developed. And there is also a suggestion that Claire may be facing some kind of illness. Then, enter Tiffany and Darren. They are on their honeymoon, and they are determined not to make any mistakes so that they can live as close to a perfect life as possible. This perfection includes not eating any meat or processed foods of any kind. Tiffany explains that, with her mode of living (into which she has enveloped Darren), there is no reason they shouldn't be able to live for hundreds of years, just like people did in the Bible. After relating how they met and how harmful all those bad foods are, Tiffany and Darren run off for a two-mile swim, leaving Phil and Claire to watch their stuff. Phil and Claire then bust out the egg salad and tuna sandwiches, as Claire reflects that it wouldn't be much fun living for hundreds of years without those.

This play is a nice little intersection between the exuberance of youth and the comfort of age; the ignorance of youth and the reality of age; the hopefulness of youth and the harsh truths of age. I do think that Tiffany and Darren come off a little too flakey (Tiff-Tiff and Dada?) to really be sympathetic. But Phil and Claire are really kind of darling. And the idea of living forever when faced with a very real personal mortality, it's pretty enticing, even if it's a little silly. 

Monday, April 6, 2015


Play #86 - Parkersburg by Laura Jacqmin

1, 2, and 3 are coal miners, stationed deep in a nearly dry mine. It's been a long time since any of them has hit a vein, and the foreman is getting restless. She tells the miners (also all women) that they had better hit coal, or they're all fired. This seems unreasonable, since they can't control whether or not there's coal here, but that's the ultimatum, nonetheless. While they dig, 3 talks a bit about her old job, while 1 & 2 prefer either not to talk, or to talk about Parkersburg - a mining town up north where the hours and conditions are good. It's a miner's idea of paradise. Suddenly, after 1 & 2 join hands to pray (or cast a spell?), 3 strikes coal. Unfortunately, at this same moment, they realize that the canary with them in the mine has stopped singing. 2 attempts to run out, but they are far too deep. 1 & 3 stay behind, hoping that the discovery of the coal by their dead bodies will mean that the company will pass on some of that money to their families. The plays with them standing together, waiting for the inevitable.

This is a sad, dark little play, but I think that stage directions Jacqmin has put in point to some really beautiful staging options. The music of the digging is important to creating this little world, to establishing the all but unending rhythm of the miners' daily lives. The fact that the characters have numbers rather than names makes them just another bunch of faceless workers who are only worth the money they can make for their employers. Their worth as human beings is nil. There's a sort of haunting poeticism to the language too, as they counter their talk of frustration and failing with their dreams of family and paradise. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Safety First

Play #85 - Safety First by Danna Call

Sam, Joe, and Joe's sock puppet sidekick Ammo are here to teach the kids an important lesson about gun safety! Everything goes pretty well at first, as they learn what to wear, what to pack, what not to pack, and how to generally be safety minded on a hunting trip. However, as the lesson progresses, it turns out that Sam doesn't always follow his own rules, and he's only here as part of court-ordered community service after the allegedly accidental shooting of his ex-wife's new husband (it just grazed his shoulder!). Sam has a bit of a temper on him, and very nearly takes it out on Ammo in front of the kids, but Joe talks him down, and sends the kiddies home with a reminder of the important lessons... and a request that maybe, some of what happened here today could just stay between them.

I have a fondness for kids' shows that take a dark twist:
Me with Jared (as Ramon) and Willy Nilly in Rainbow Annie is the Angel of Death by Jayce T. Tromsness
The Distracted Globe Theatre Company
And, as you can see from the photo, I have a fondness for puppets in these scenarios. So really, this was kind of right up my alley. It's a little dark, and a little off-kilter. I'm not a hunter or a gun person, so I found the piece interesting in the way it presented Joe (and Ammo) as reasonable, responsible gun voices, in contrast to the more unbalanced voice of Sam. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Play #84 - Nephrology by Sara Ilyse Jacobson
It's Nate's first day on a new job, but Kate has been working here forever. In fact, her husband used to work with her until he died, so she's not particularly keen on a replacement so soon after her loss.
Oh...also... Nate and Kate are kidneys.
I think the idea behind the play is sort of cute and novel, but the execution isn't great. It rushes itself, it doesn't take advantage enough of the built in jokes for a pair of kidneys. I would have liked to see it lean into the skid a bit more...really own the whole "these are personified organs" thing. More discussion of where Nate is from? How he got here? And what about the person? If he were still an unapologetic drinker, he probably wouldn't have gotten the new kidney in the first place. It's a good idea, but it just fell short in too many places. I sort of want to rewrite it... flesh it out... make it into what it wishes it could have been. But I have to admit, I don't think I'm quite that interested in kidneys.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Three Ring Platform

Play #83 - Three Ring Platform by Kate Kertez

Okay, this was actually kind of cute. Rachel and Frank are two strangers waiting for the subway that never seems to want to come. Rachel is already late for a date and Frank is plenty early on his way to a gig. Rachel is feeling a little high strung, so she begins talking, just in general at first, and then sort of in Frank's general direction. After a while, she realizes that he has been reacting, but not speaking, and she begins to get worried. But he quickly explains (via his notebook) that he is not speaking because he's saving his voice for his upcoming gig as a clown. Yes - he's a clown. They chat for a while, and then they even play for a little - and eventually they decide to play a friendly game of hangman.

It's a charming little progression, and the device of having only Rachel speak is a good challenge for both performers. And it could probably be cut up into a decent monologue or two. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Live From Pod 305

Play #82 - Live From Pod 305 by Ashley Marinaccio

Eze and Sam are cellmates in a women's correctional facility. Sam has only recently been placed in the general population with Eze because since her sentencing she has been under suicide watch. Eze is an exuberant young woman who sees her burning of an animal research facility as fully justified, herself a political prisoner, and the humans and animals who were killed by her fire as "collateral damage." Sam, on the other hand, has a PhD and taught musicology before an unfortunate bike accident led to the death of an unborn child. Each night Eze uses a collection of objects that she has assembled to "broadcast" a radio show that she believes is keeping her radical political message alive for her listeners. Tonight, Sam has finally had enough and she begins to argue with Eze. First she merely wants it quiet, but things escalate quickly as Sam discusses her own pain, and then challenges Eze's ideology. This eventually throws Eze into a rage, and she is taken out by the guards, leaving Sam on her own again.

The idea behind this play is sort of interesting, but honestly, with something like Orange is the New Black out there in the world, it's sort of hard to see anything else about a women's prison without begging the comparison... and with the compared item coming up short. Also, the climax is sort of sudden and unfinished - even for a short play. Eze is taken away, but what has this done to Sam? What has this changed for her? There really isn't any sense of resolution. 

Wiccans in the Hood

Play #81 - Wiccans in the Hood by Michelle T. Johnson

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Mid-America Theatre Conference in Kansas City. Part of this particular conference is a new play symposium. And part of this symposium is that each play gets a response from a real live playwright. This year, that playwright was Michelle T. Johnson. During the conference, I was lucky enough to meet her, and she was generous enough to send me one of her scripts. I never stop being surprised and honored by playwrights' willingness to share their work!

One night, in a cemetery an "urban" neighborhood, an unlikely group of people comes together to perform a Yoruba ritual, asking Oya to bring about swift change in their lives. The group of believers is made up of Johnathan, Kylie (who are a couple) and Violet, and they are led by a man named Gabriel. The action starts when they show up with their offerings and run into a woman named Diamond who actually lives in the neighborhood. She questions why these three white people (and their black or Latino guide - Gabriel) who clearly don't belong in this neighborhood are hanging out in the cemetery at night... with eggplants and other strange offerings. Right away, she and Johnathan rub each other the wrong way, as he has a lot of assumptions in place about the people who live in this particular neighborhood. But despite their differences, the little band of believers keeps coming back, and Diamond keeps meeting up with them as they perform their rituals. Whether it's to deal with Kylie's problems at work or Diamond's sick Aunt Tilly, or Johnathan's troubled past, the rituals keep the companions coming back. Over time, friendships develop, and secrets come out about everyone's past - especially Johnathan's and Gabriel's. And it turns out that there is a lot more that these people share than they might have suspected.

Aside from the great title (and let's be honest... this is a fabulous title), the play has a wonderful sense of heart. It deals with real issues of socioeconomic inequality, drugs, loss, and personal faith. The relationships progress believably, planting seeds for the very real tragedies that the characters end up encountering. And, on top of all of its lofty goals, it's pretty funny too. There is something really approachable and charming about this script - I hope it finds its way to more stages!