Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bursting at the seams

It's a nice problem to have. Since our move to the TheatreWorks building in March, word has gotten out about our amiable group and we've been blessed with all sorts of new people joining us.

Last night was no exception. We had 25 people show up, and were lucky enough to add actor Jenny Maloney of Springs Ensemble Theatre and writer/actor Anne Krill, a long-time acting teacher from San Diego, to our growing family (Anne told me Annette Bening and Brian Stokes Mitchell were two of her students.)

We also had a great big bunch of plays: 7 this time, which we got through in just over 2 1/2 hours.

We opened with the beginning of Deirdre Gilbert's intriguing dystopian comedy, By Hook or By Crook, By Book or By Nook. In it, she shows us a future world in which all books but the electronic Nook is banned by the government. Deirdre made the bold choice of having the dead-tree books portrayed by actors. Deirdre is considering changing the title to the metric equivalent of Fahrenheit 451. How does Celsius 233 sound?

After that, we read the hilarious comedy Expectations by Grant Swenson. This short play centered around a jerky guy being visited by the women of his past. This premise has been explored in film before, but the witty dialogue ("I couldn't handle the drama and I was a theatre student!") made this feel fresh, with Grant making effective use of oblique dialogue. The audience especially loved the sharply-drawn contrasts among the characters.

Next up was a new scene from August Mergelman's Dracula adaptation The Count. In this version, Van Helsing is a woman--an interesting choice brought humorously to life by Ashley Crockett. Although August maintained the verse form that is his signature (iambic heptameter, for you poetry geeks), it was much less noticeable here. August said that his composing partner may not want to continue with this project, so August will probably make this a straight play.

We followed that with four vignettes from Sue Bachman's heartwarming play about a mother and daughter in the 1950's, tentatively titled Mother Hunger. Sue did a great job balancing the mother's inner warmth with a tough outer shell, avoiding the syrupiness that often weakens works like this. And kudos to Sallie Walker for capturing both sides of this fascinating woman. The audience enjoyed the good-natured rivalry between Missy and her mischievous little brother--a new addition this month--and hopes to see more of the boy

After that we read a short comedy by Jeff Schmoyer titled Bubble Boy Dates, about a smart alecky "bubble boy" who ventures forth in his protective suit to find a date, including one girl who has an aversion to being touched (making her the "perfect woman" for him). People liked the ambiguity regarding his last "date", as it wasn't clear whether the girl really was from Alpha Centauri or had only been told that by her parents. Lots of laughs in this one.

Next came a couple more scenes from Tim Phillip's Prohibition-era romance Notes From the Heart. I'm not going out on a limb here to say that the scene between Tracy Hunziker's society matron Abigail and Roy Kieffer's piano player Paul was the steamiest one we ever had ("Did someone turn the heat up?" Charlie Ammen wondered.) The discussion itself also got a little hot. Some audience members argued that Abigail should be given a big explosive moment with her husband over the abortion he forced her to have, while others said that, considering the times, it should be handled more delicately.

We finished up with the beginning of my new museum farce I Want My Mummy (I promise I'll change the title to something more original). We were introduced to all of the characters, including the meek security guard, two stupid robbers, a hard-driving newspaper reporter and three teenage filmmakers. Ashley Crockett did an especially commendable job bringing out the wackiness of the Egyptian priestess Pei-Nin-Dah-Nekh. I also got some great suggestions for plot twists which I'm now considering.

Our next meeting is Monday, August 11. See you all then!

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