Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TV Live (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

All me to be brutally honest here.  Not mean or dismissive but up front and sincere.  In the last few years the notion of a "ten minute play" became very popular with lots of theatres.  One can easily see why!  Logistics for one thing--less rehearsal, less demand of attention from an audience weaned on sitcoms and music videos.

Me, I find it very hard to get much out of ten minutes.  Very hard indeed.  But far from impossible! TV Live at ZJU in North Hollywood is a collection of these plays, all written by a friend of mine who quite frankly I regard as a very good playwright with an interesting, entertaining and often insightful voice.  His name is Adam Neubauer.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
And if I claimed to be disappointed or that I didn't enjoy myself, that would be a total lie.  I enjoyed myself quite a bit.  The five plays (or playlets) gave me plenty of reason to smile, to raise an eyebrow, to nod while recognizing something I didn't know I knew.  Really, this was very nice.

Get Right (directed by Roger K. Weiss) stars Kurt Cotton, Evan Henderson and Chelsea Collins in what amounted to a strange triangle, one not based on romance really but obligations of friendship.

Gonna Live Forever (directed by Mark Hein) features Justin Banek, Mason Kale and Inetri Brazil as three people at a bar reacting to a startling claim by one of them, that in turn brings out all kinds of truths from the other two.

Credit: Adam Neubauer
Box 4815 (directed by Adam himself) follows a bank robbery veering into tangled and dangerous mine field of conflicting goals--with Julie Inmon, Sarah Shankman and Kyle Marie Colucci.

Club Mirror (directed by Jana Wimer) sees Sean Sekino, Randy Marquis and Mariya Pesheva give us a glimpse of a kind of deeply dysfunctional triangle with echoes of violence and deceit.

A Mid-Morning Conversation (directed by Denise Devin) is the one playlet with a two character cast--Dorian Antonacci and Rachel Scorpio as a seemingly perfect couple in an almost Barbie and Ken kind of way, which all turns out to be so very much darker than that!

Do these sound interesting, entertaining, maybe even insightful and/or moving?  I hope so, because to some degree or other each of the five were all that.  More at its best the direction brought all kinds of interesting details into sharp relief, forcing the audience's mind outside the box of formula and expectation.  Performances included some which were spot on perfect, others showing loads of
Credit: Adam Neubauer
talent and several that mastered the tricky art of doing next-to-nothing with profound truth.

Parenthetically, I note that Neubauer's voice as a writer has its own peculiar rhythm, one only he himself managed to capture pretty much perfectly.  Which doesn't change the overall quality of these performances and mini-productions.

However, I really did leave with my artistic appetite whetted not really fulfilled.  How well can any of us get to know even one character in a mere six thousand seconds, after all?  Much less two or three?  That challenge is considerable and to be brutally honest I've seen it answered maybe twice ever (and one of those might well be in this show).  Neubauer tells funny, engaging, surreal stories and peppers them with people that feels as if there's something
Credit: Adam Neubauer
more we'd like to know.  Left us wanting more, good theatre and storytelling technique! 

But I did want more.  A lot more.  The glimpse was tantalizing.  I recommend the show without hesitation.  But I want more than ten minutes from this writer.  I want at least nine times that, so I can see what lies behind these amazing glimpses of back story and character, so I can wrap my head around what is happening as if it were more than an SNL sketch.  There's an extraordinary talent and ability here, but instead of a wonderful meal all I'm getting from this is h'ordeurves.

Very good h'ordeurves, let us be fair.

TV Live plays Fridays at 8:30pm through April 10, 2015 at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre at 4850 Lankershim (just south of the NoHo sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.  Tickets are $15 and reservations can be made by calling (818) 202-4120 or by going to zombiejoes.tix.com.

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