The Vital Theatre Company's New Works Festival is a semi-annual festival of short works in which a swarm of plays are fired at audiences, shotgun-style, every weekend for up to eight weeks in a row (four weeks for this installment). The third week this time around was a sweetly comic evening with just a pinch of tragedy.
Starting off the night was Bliss, written by Stefanie Zadravec and directed by Georgi Cerruti. Bliss is short 'n' sweet, and shows the inside of a woman's head as she sinks into senile dementia. It's much more warm and fuzzy than it sounds. As Irene (Susanne Marley) lies bedridden and delusional in the real world, her husband (or rather her memory thereof) takes her back to their wedding night, and the two reminisce about their life together.
Dar and Barb, by Catherine Allen, was directed by Emily Tetzlaff. It not only proves that moms are usually right, but shows how small generation gaps really are. Dar (Stacy Melich) and her mother, Barbara, (Jan O'Dell) have excellent chemistry, and Allen's characters beg to be developed further.
Steven Christopher Yockey's Medusa, Directed by Bob Cline, lagged behind the other pieces in the first act. Medusa is a relatively lengthy piece, mostly composed of monologs delivered from the POV of a woman (Vanessa Shealy) who's going insane. It was a rambling train of thought that was often de-railed. Eventually the big revelation scene came, followed by a shocking twist and a denouement. By the time the final, final resolution arrived, the play had worn out its welcome. If the eponymous gorgon were to turn this script to stone, a sculptor could chisel Medusa into an engrossing but much shorter scene.
Act II got off to a fun start with Robert Shaffron's Plastic, directed by Mary Catherine Burke. This little send-up of the world of male modeling takes place at an audition, where male models "Thunder" (Shannon R. Bryant) and "Slam" (Ian Oldaker) discuss their industry while an unseen casting agent (voiced by Vassi Spanos) is overheard running the audition. A bit of A Chorus Line meets Zoolander and an insightful look at the oft-overlooked male end of the beauty industry.
Milk In China was directed by Derek Jamison, and was fiendishly crafted by playwright Lisa Rosenthal to tug on heartstrings. In it four interwoven monologs tell the stories of four men who find themselves in China to adopt girls from that country's surplus population. Rosenthal keeps the political/social commentary about sexism and government population control in China to a minimum, but still gets her point across. Jamison's directing and Jak Prince's lighting design complemented Rosenthal's clever narrative structure very well.
Vital ended the show on a warm and fuzzy note with Superhero. Playwright Mark Harvey Levine was apparently rocketed to earth from the planet Krypton, since his mastery of comic-book dialogue is so complete. His Superhero (Craig Fitzpatrick) spoke with halting melodramatic speeches and constantly addressed people as "citizen," making him appear to be the bastard child of Adam West and Clayton Moore. In Superhero a lonely woman (Jennifier Stewart) plays the damsel in distress to attract the Hero next door, who turns out to be nothing more than a lonely man in a cape. Together their inner heroes find love. Director Gregory Thorson threw in some amusing touches, such as the fact that the Superhero was clearly wearing boxer shorts under the briefs of his super-suit.
(Also featuring Daniel Dugan, Martin Van Treuren, Jay Billiet, Jennifer Wren, Anthony Bishop, Todd Butera, Jack Garrity, and Al Hasnas.)
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Copyright 2003 David Mackler