Every year the Vital Theatre Company has a month-long extravaganza of short plays, called Vital Signs, which features a different group of short plays each week. This year’s Week Three consisted of four plays ranging from over-the-top farce to tear-jerking drama.
The evening started off with Suspense, by Ian Finley, directed by David Hilder. It was an excellent starting point for the night; a campy parody of murder mysteries, crammed full of improbable plot twists and hysterical upper-crust caricatures. Ridiculous accents and hammy performances were just what the script called for, and director Hilder let the cast run wild with their characterizations. Melodramatic zaniness was abundant in the sound design too (Jill B.C. Du Boff), such as the old-fashioned radio-mystery music or the well-timed thunderclaps that punctuated every suspenseful moment.
The second half of the first act was William Borden’s Falling, directed by Aimee Hayes. Set on the morning of September 11, at the World Trade center, it is about a Jewish woman (Rachel Burttram) and a Muslim man (Amir Darvish) who jump from the Twin Towers together, and fall in love during the drop to their deaths (because time slows down when you’re about to die). The idea would have made a terrific farce but, unfortunately, Mr. Borden wrote it as a serious piece. Even though it was well-intended, the improbable tale was a bit too reverent towards its subject matter, and a few years too late to have much impact.
The second act started off with Robert Shaffron’s comedy Jesus Hates You (directed by Paul Adams), which was about a married couple who both used to be gay, but have been cured of homosexuality by Jesus. Of course, the "curing" didn’t work as well as the Lord might have hoped, so Ex-Bob and Ex-Trish (Peter Herrick and Amy Bizjak) celebrate their anniversary with lots of repressed antics. Shaffron’s script is founded on a funny idea, and has a great title, but the piece doesn’t maintain its humor through to the ending. Overall, the humor worked, such as when the ex-gay man mentions his dog is named Tallulah, but the unexpected appearance of Ellen DeGeneres’s mother (Wynne Anders) at the end was a bit too much.
The final play of the night was the strongest of the lot. Overhead (written by Kellie Overbey and directed by Linda Ames Key) is a simple story of two men who meet while standing in a church doorway to get out of the rain. One is a sleazeball car salesman (Marty Grabstein), who’s playing hooky from work so he can cheat on his wife. The other man (Michael Anthony Walker) is eventually revealed to have much greater tragedy in his life than getting caught in the rain. In fact, Mr. Walker’s performance as Kayode was the most memorable facet of the evening.
While the night as a whole had a hit-or-miss feel to it, the scenes that did hit were top-notch theatre.
(Also featuring Damian Buzzerio, Nancy Jacobs, Paul Romanello, Julie Evan Smith, and Tom Moglia.)
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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby