Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Springfest 2003: Bill One

Spring Theatreworks
Altered Stages
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Spring Theatreworks offered three plays for its Springfest 2003, a full-length play presented by itself as Bill Two and two one-act plays lumped together for Bill One.

Spencer Driggers's one-act, Down Roadside, is founded on a clever idea but executed in a way that keeps it from taking flight. Roy (Jesse Erbel) wakes up with amnesia and must piece together his life through the calls he receives on his cell phone. The audience joins Roy as he struggles to piece together his identity and find out why he has amnesia in the first place.

The darkly comic plot (which eventually involves monkeys and wife-stealing astronauts) unwinds mostly through phone conversations, which were cleverly staged by director/choreographer Zenobia Taylor. Taylor sequestered Roy on one side of the stage, and callers appear in spotlights on the other side. These phone conversations could be hysterical, particularly when Roy was speaking to any of the three characters played by Chad Afanador. In addition to the dialog, playwright Spencer Driggers also uses a narrative written entirely in rhyming verse (performed magnificently by Driggers himself).

Despite all that it has going for it, the play still had some distracting flaws. Taylor used quite a few dance sequences that accompanied the rap-like narrative, but the dance/rap elements didn't mesh with the rest of the play. Also, the pieces of Roy's puzzle mostly fit together, but some of them need to be pounded into place. And there's the implausible pseudo-science that is ultimately revealed to be behind Roy's memory loss. There's a brilliant play in here somewhere, but it never quite reaches escape velocity.

The other one-act was The Only Constant Is Spare Change (directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde), by Kerry McGuire (in collaboration with the ensemble). The original concept for this piece was "A theatre piece based on ... the nine levels of hell in Dante's inferno." It also ran 45 minutes.

A whopping five minutes per ring of Hell doesn't leave much time for story or character, or really much of anything. In fact it seemed that even the Inferno concept was jettisoned too.

Set in a Midwestern desert, in a roadside diner where the ice machine is broken (it's hot... GET IT?), it's the story of Olga (Susannah Conn), who eventually gets around to saying she wants to leave Hell and move to the big city. A symbolic conflict ensues as city-girl Mary (Lesley Majzlin) and diner owner Paulie (Mathew Drennan) battle for Olga's soul.

The set, by John Connors, was almost enough to redeem the show. All three plays in "Springfest" shared the same background, a multipurpose wall of movable white bricks, but Connors also created a creepy evil diner set for "Change" and a properly blank hotel room for amnesiac Roy to wake up in.

(Also featuring Shawn J. Davis, Tara Gibson, Doug Simpson, Karen Allen, Kelley Kahrnoff, Melinda Rebman, and Jenn Weddell.)

Box Score:


Down Roadside

The Only Constant Is Spare Change




















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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby