In a small room upstairs at the historical Ethical Society building located on beautiful Rittenhouse Square, large round tables with chairs fill the room, cabaret style. People have brought their own ice tea and coffee and apparently this is encouraged. As you enter, a singer songwriter performs her material accompanying herself on guitar. This evening's pre-show musical act, Judy Freed, sings interesting material, but has such an unpleasant voice and accompanies herself so poorly (literally struggling for chords at the end of a song) that we are disinclined to listen. At 8:00 the lights go out and we are treated to nine new short plays and one intermission. Of the nine, I only disliked the writing in the last piece. The other eight pieces, as plays go, were artistically worthy. But because each play had a different author, cast and director, there was, unfortunately, no unity to the evening. Rather, it was a grab-bag assortment of theatrical shorts with some performed more winningly than others. The last piece, "Overanalysis", performed by the entire cast, seemed a vain attempt to wrap the evening up but fell short of the mark.
However there were some very amusing highlights: "Downstairs at Quantico", a filme noir piece by Alexander Dremann, directed by Dave Bardeen and Deb Seif in a dead on camp style with the pace of a speeding bullet, was in turn executed with great comic timing by Dave Rikard and Donna McFadden.
"White Castles" by Michael Phelan is a bittersweet meeting of two disparate characters on an airplane. - a runaway bride and an insurance salesman. The piece was charmingly directed by Laura Gross and nicely fleshed out by the actors, Amanda Schoonover and Jim Boyle.
"Bad Audition #2" (a monologue) written and directed by the talented Dominick Scudera, is a tour de force for the funny Donna McFadden, wherein she portrays the entire play of Hedda Gabler in an hysterical nutshell. Mr. Scudera is no newcomer to comedy, having directed David Ives collection of short pieces, "All in the Timing" for the New Hope Arts Festival and then later Off-Broadway.
"Fixing Things" is a sweet and sour offering by Emilio Iasiello. It has characters which are immediately identifiable and likable being both comic and tragic at the same time. A battered wife with a bashed in door calls in a contractor to fix up her apartment and perhaps her life. But the direction, which seemed to be neither here nor there, fell short, leaving the actors struggling for a style to play. Ultimately we felt guilty when we laughed at the wife's misfortunes and misconceptions as she again picks "the wrong guy."
"Bad Audition #3" (monologue) again written and directed by Dominick Scudera was without a doubt the funniest piece of the evening due in no small part to David Rikard who played it to the hilt. The actor who is auditioning for us has two short monologues: one from "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the other from "Rocky". The first consists of "Stella . . .Stella!! . . . STELLA!! The other consists of "Adrienne. . . Adrienne!!. . . ADRIENNE!!!" It may not look like much on paper but on stage it's hilarious.
The only serious piece of the evening was "Size of the Cell" a play by Rich Orloff about torturing political prisoners. In a cryptic Kafkaesque manner the piece never tells us where we are or who is being tortured or why. And so we are left to assume that it is meant to be a universal example of man's inhumanity to man. Although the play has some merit and is believably acted (by Jeremy Chacon and Brian McCann), it doesn't seem to fit into this evening of otherwise very light fare. Perhaps it should have been omitted from this round and included in a group of more serious endeavors.
This festival of shorts runs until August 2nd so if you're a fan of new plays then it's worth checking out. Bring your own ice tea or coffee and for tickets call the Fictitious Box Office at: (215) 772-9140.
Return to Home Page