Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Full Monty
I have meant to cover Theatre Odyssey's Ten-Minute Play Festival in the past, but time constraints have always made this impossible. This year I vowed that nothing would prevent me attending one of the region's beloved yearly events. Theatre Odyssey requests submissions from area playwrights, 10 minutes or less in length, and then selects eight plays to present at the festival. In addition, Theatre Odyssey hosts a Student Playwriting Festival in January, this year eight plays were selected from over 30 submissions. The winner of that festival, Amazing Grace by Luke Valadie, was given a full production at the end of the Ten-Minute Play Festival.
The evening begins with The Call by Frank Motz and directed by Bob Trisolini. Kimberly, played by Lilian Moore, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is enjoying a quiet night at home with husband Brett, played by Tony Boothby, when she receives a phone call from the president-elect, requesting her co-operation between parties for the good of the country. Later, a visit by Caroline, a hard-line senator played by Cortney Hawk, provides an alternate viewpoint as she ponders trusting the opposition party for the good of all. The play is an interesting diatribe, wishing for less factionalism in the politics of this country. This is a thought-provoking piece.
Next we have Wheelchair Chicken by J. Clark, directed by Daniel Greene. Roy, played by Neil Levine, and Whit, played by David Meyersburg, are residents of a nursing home. Roy participates in the blood sport of wheelchair chicken, hurting opponents seriously in the playing. This turns out to be a necessary emotional release because his family doesn't visit. They are joined by Shirley, played by Jenny Aldrich. This is not the strongest piece on the bill, but the acting is well done.
I'm Dead When I Say I'm Dead, by Ron Pantello and directed by Louise Stinespring with an assist from John Stinespring, is next. This play should be on the short list to be voted audience favorite and to win the festival prize (judging by Carolyn Michel, Ben Turoff and Brendan Regan). Barry, played by Mitcheal Pearl, carries an urn containing the ashes of his recently diseased mother, played by Kathryn Chesley. Mother is quickly heard giving advice; Jewish mothers never make rapid exits and this one is not only heard, she is seen puttering around the apartment. Even owing a debt to Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, this play is riotously funny.
The first half closes with Kennedy's Acolytes, by Jack Gilhooley and directed by Sara Logan. I believe what Gilhooley is trying to show in this play is how far the influence of this great man extended. Eileen, played by Nicole Cunningham, and Deidre, played by Sally Fint, are two young Irish girls we meet on the day JFK was killed. This traumatic event affected people all over the world. They are later joined by Oona, played by Johana Davila.
After intermission we are treated to The Best Ten Minutes Ever, by Dylan Jones and directed by Sara Logan. Don, played by Philip Troyer, and Anne, played by Johanna Davila, are rehearsing a scene about a married couple. He is having trouble with lines late in the process, which brings in director Kay, hilariously played by Sandra Musicante. It turns out that Don and Anne are actually married to each other and find themselves in exactly the situation that the play they are rehearsing depicts, a tip of the hat to French theater of the absurd. The twists make this short play interesting.
In Always, by Stephen Cooper and directed by Louise and John Steinespring, a married couple are sharing Friday afternoon wine and cheese. Vivian, played by Andrea Dovner, is dropping loaded questions toward Edward, played by Tom Aposporos. He is no fool after a marriage of long duration, and his dancing around what could only be described as a demilitarized zone is awkward. It turns out that there is something driving these questions. This play is 10 minutes of brilliant writing for emotionally very real characters. The play would make a great exercise in an acting class for actors of a certain age.
In Secret's Out, by Greg Burdick and directed by Daniel Greene, Older Darnell, played by Paul Mullen, and younger Carlos, played by Mitcheal Pearl, are sitting on a bench outside Victoria's Secret. Darnell's teenage daughter and Carlos' girlfriend are in the store. Much banter between young and old fills 10 minutes entertainingly. The women make a late appearance: Gina the girlfriend, played by Nicole Cunningham, and Jashanna the daughter, played by Olivia Yagy.
The last regular play is A Big Wave, by Connie Schindewolf and directed by Bob Trisolini. A chance encounter between Joann, played by Jenny Aldrich, and Jack, played by Don Walker. She is sitting waiting for resolution of a very personal tragedy, and he is doing turtle patrol. A while back I wished for someone to find Jenny Aldrich a part she could sink her teeth into, worthy of her great talents. Well, Ms. Schindewolf has done exactly that. In 10 minutes Ms. Aldrich gets a chance to tackle a whole lifetime of emotion. It is a blessing that she is partnered by real life husband Don Walker, no slouch as an actor himself, and the sure hand of Mr. Trisolini at the helm to fine tune these great performances. This is another piece that would make for a great acting exercise, but the parts are not evenly balanced, as it is really a tour de force for the woman. Great character writing by Connie Schindewolf.
As an encore, we get Amazing Grace by Luke Valadie and directed by Preston Boyd, the story of a real-life sea captain who loses his ship to bad weather, is saved by a slave, and has an emotional catharsis. Smith, the merchant, is played by Chuck Conlon and Newton, the captain, is played by James Kassees. A slave, mostly in the background is played with dignity by Letherio Jones and Smith's wife is played by Tami Vaughan. The play seems reasonably accurate, historically, and it's stunning to contemplate the youth of the playwright. I can clearly see how this pieces bested 30 other entries to win the young playwrights competition. Bravo!
This year's audience is treated to a wide variety of material, much of it quite worthy and at least 2 pieces with great emotional landscape. The festival also provides opportunities for actors who might not be able to commit to several weeks of rehearsal and then several more weeks of performances. This group offers a nice addendum to the Sarasota/Manatee theater world.
Theatre Odyssey presents the Ten-Minute Play Festival through May 7, 2017, at the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941-351-8000. For more information visit www.theatreodyssey.org.