Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Till Tech Do Us Part (review)

An old photo of The Mirror Theater
Spoilers Ahoy!

About one block north of the NoHo sign on Lankershim stands The Mirror Theater. (Be warned--the website hasn't been updated in months!)

Last Friday I had the great fun of watching a collection of one act plays there, coinciding with but not actually part of the Hollywood Fringe. Till Tech Do Us Part consists of two more nights of one acts. My review only deals with Group A.

The concept, courtesy of Julie Raelyn, centers around how we try to connect with one another using technology but ultimately fail. In Group A at any rate, we see this explored via comedy for the most part. Just as well. Heavy subjects often go down better with a bit of sugar. Often. Not always. I mean that in every sense. Group A consists of seven tiny plays:

How To Succeed in Romance Without Really Trying by Trace Crawford seems arguably the most difficult to pull off. It hinges on several stylistic quirks that individually earn some genuine giggles (especially given the performance of Lauren Miscioscia as Woman, a character who literally believes nothing happens if it isn't witnessed by others). David Currier has the subtler job of playing Man, who consults a book (Paul Calderon) about what to do with this female he's met online. All three actors do well with what they're given, but ultimately my reaction remains this should be a longer play. It simply lacks the time and events needed for us to enter its weird little world and 'get' what the writer seems to be saying. On another note, the playwright's website describes the title as How To Succeed in Romance Without Really Connecting, which seems better frankly.

Julie Raelyn
Girls' Night Out by Nova Mejia (who also appears in a later play as well as directing this one) never quite gels. Which isn't to say there's not some real entertainment in it. Danielle Camastra and the playwright play two young women trying to find some answer, some equilibrium in their lives, helping each other out along the way. Really, too short with not enough happening to capture much. Both central characters feel like they're real (no small feat) and both actresses seem natural (again, kudos!). Yet if--as seems the case--the notion was to capture a moment of their lives, then it didn't quite work. First, the secondary characters Francois (David Currier) and Holger Moncada's character (a minor complaint about the program--the cast list is incomplete) aren't real at all. They come across as stereotypical lounge lizards. Didn't like them. Nor did I see the depths of desperation that would lead either young woman go out with one of them. Second (and this happened a few other times that night) the mini-play didn't feel as if it ended. It simply stopped. Not the writing's fault. The play had a very good closing line, but tossing it away didn't work.

Vatican 3G by Joe Starzyk (alas he seems not to have a website) ventures more into farce. Kailena Mai goes to confession for the first time in years, only to run up against a Priest (Raymond Morris) wrapped up in the Church's efforts to attract young folk via aggressive use of social media--like insisting on texting both confession and penance. A funny idea, but honestly the two actors don't end up on the same page. Morris veers into camp, doing it quite well. Mai remains more-or-less naturalistic. With only two samples (not counting a minor walk-on unidentified in the program) we don't know what world we're in--a bizarro one where this Priest fits or something more akin to what we view as "normal" from which the Parishioner seems to come.

Stacy Ann Raposa, director of Face Time & others
Face Time by Donna Hoke veers into something else altogether. Something funny and moving and biting. Yet so simple! Two women. Jessica Kaye Temple (who ironically enough seems to lack a website, FB page or anything like that) and Femi Longe play old school friends who meet in line at a store. The former is going through some stuff in her life and tries to simply talk with the latter--who barely listens, constantly checks her iPad, and generally remains the Icon for the theme of this collection of plays! While this premise clearly has lots of potential, the acting (especially the timing) coupled with the rhythm of the writing hits home. And hard. Meanwhile, a big shout-out to both actresses for filling moments of silence. Actors too often fear silence, and when confronted by it freak out. Not so here!

What Are You Going To Be by Steven Korbar is another that fills its time brilliantly. It all centers around an aggressively progressive married couple (Lisa Glass and Andrew Thompson) suffering a crisis around their daughter (Sarah Schwartz) and her choice of a halloween costume. I don't want to give any of it away, since I enjoyed this playlet so much! Besides, spoilers really would live up to the name! Suffice to say I started smiling very soon and laughed with increasing awareness as the story unfolded. Besides, who doesn't love a play that ends with diabolical laughter?

Nova Mejia
Drenched by Sandra Hosking is one of those very subtle character pieces that requires some intense and intuitive work with the actors. Simply, their technique--including the total invisibility of same--needs to soar. A man (Chad Holle) and woman (Nova Mejia again) get caught in the rain. They reach shelter, but she remains in the elements, recalling how as a child she imagined her umbrella a boat. He urges her to come out of the rain. She all but begs him to join her out of the shelter. The danger--pretentiousness. But both cast and playwright avoid that deadly rock in their way! Bravo! Unfortunately, what they fail to achieve is a real relationship, a real moment taking place--save for a few scattered moments when (like lightning, appropriately enough) they stop being actors and those individual PEOPLE peak out. One final problem--the final line didn't feel like an ending. Nor did it feel (as seems intended) as a beginning. Ultimately, I didn't believe these two knew in their bones what lay between their characters. Without that, without that specific knowledge, the playlet falls apart despite some very real charm.

Kung Foolery by Brett Hursey rounded out the evening, and in a very funny way too! Jessica Kaye Temple returns as a wife trying with ever-increasing skill and desperation to get her husband (a much better used Holger Moncada) to stop acting like a Ninja. This is evidently something he does every time her mother (Eugenia Care) visits. In this one, we seem to be in the "normal" world but slowly people and circumstances reveal themselves as increasingly surreal--but still within the realm of the possible! A wonderful conceit carried through by the cast with great aplomb--and leaves you wondering about this little glimpse of dysfunctional hell we've just glimpsed. A nice reminder, incidentally, that humor is born from pain.

Bottom line--all are worth seeing, but Face Time, Who Are You Going To Be? and Kung Foolery are the best of Group A.

Till Tech Do Us Part can been seen  Jun 28, 2013: 8 pm (Fri), Jun 29, 2013: 8 pm (Sat), and Jun 30, 2013: 7 pm (Sun) at The Magic Mirror Theater 4934 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601

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