Sunday, February 17, 2019

Airport Encounters: Brace for Impact! (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I'm not usually a huge fan of what I call "very short plays" i.e. about ten minutes long.  This stems from my experience that they usually don't feel finished.  However, the most successful of these tend to be imaginative, fun skits with equal parts humor and compassion.  Which turns out an excellent description of Neo Ensenble Theatre's Airport Encounters: Brace for Impact!

Another 'trick' to make a collection of these work is having a similar theme or element.  In this case, every single story takes place in the waiting room of an airport.

Ordained by Mark Harvey Levine and directed by June Carryl follows a totally bizarre but ultimately heart-warming encounter between two strangers (Tracy Winters, Jerry Weil) accosted by a young woman (Starina Johnson) who insists they must get married because she is freshly ordained.  Is she just stark raving looney tune?  Or maybe, just maybe an angel?  No way to tell.

I Wish You Had Never Been Born by Scott Mullen, directed by David Bickford proves a wacky coming of age story involving time travel.  A young woman in bizarre clothes (Jennifer Cheung) approaches a lady on her way to Los Angeles (Julie Lippert), begging her not to get on the plane.  She claims to be from the future, and ultimately turns out just wants the lady never to meet her husband to be and thus give birth to the young woman's ex-boyfriend (Jason Paul Evans).

Three Syllables of Shame by Ronn Watson and directed by Richard Pierce seems vastly normal by comparison, less zany but quite moving.  A couple (Spenser Kramber, Sheila Daly) deal with their fears and hopes and random thoughts of becoming parents while trying to come up with terrible, awful names for their future child. 

His Name is Henry by Jessica June Rowe and directed by Matthew Singletary makes for delightful slight of weird life in which someone insists on taking on board a wooden duck who, she claims, is her support animal.  All the characters (well, save Henry himself...itself?) end up vividly alive on stage and was a delight to behold.  Cast consists of Jerrfy Weil, Valerie Gould, Tracy Elliott and Joan Kubicek.

Till Death Do Us Part by Elayn Heilveil and directed by Valerie Gould, is an almost classical romantic farce transformed into a haiku.  A married couple (Connie Monroe, Jason Paul Evans) fresh from the actual wedding are having a fight amid what has turned out to be an even more than dramatic series of events than one would expect.  They are hilarious and very human, while the man who ends up (literally) in the middle of all this (David St. James) after awhile understands what is going on.  So do we, by the end.

My Cellphone Says You're My Soulmate by Scott Mullen, directed by Matthew Singletary okay was a tiny bit predictable by this time in the evening.  A young man has programmed his cellphone to find his soulmate, approaches a young woman in the airport insisting it must be she--although ultimately both suspect maybe the phone means her sister?  So does the sister when she comes back from getting something.  At least at first.

Ninjas by Scott Mullen and directed by Lauren Smerkanich explores an interesting case of a two stalkers who fall in love in high school then finally connect again at their high school reunion.  Which is fairly disturbing in some ways but darkly sweet in others.  Starina Johnson and Tracy Elliott portray the night vision goggle-crossed lovers.

Charlie by Beth Polsky and directed by Joe Ochman proved my favorite (although honestly, they were all very entertaining).  The title character (Anthony Marquez) is a humanoid robot invented by a scientist (David St. James) en route to a robotics conference.  Turns out Charlie has been reprogramming himself to better obey his primary mission, to take care of David.  Who drinks much too much.  And who needs a girlfriend.  Sure enough we soon run across Marcy (Abby Kammeraad-Campbell), another robot with her inventor Violet (Valerie Gould).  What follows is equal parts silly, even ridiculous, but very funny and liberally slathered with kismet.

Airport Encounters: Brace For Impact!  plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm until February 23, 2019 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd (west of Vine), Hollywood CA 90038.

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