Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tales from Tomorrow II (review)

Spoilers ahoy!  

Force of Nature Productions does various anthology shows along different themes.  Tales from Tomorrow consists of tiny plays about fantasy and science fiction, preferably with a twist.

Magnum Opus (by Steven W. Alloway and directed by Roger Weiss) is one of the most "Twilight Zone-eque" of the short plays.  Essentially a violinist (Jennifer Novak Chun) signs a pact with Satan (Stephanie Rojo) and it doesn't go as planned. As per usual.  Interestingly, in this case the seller desires neither fortune nor fame, not a new life, not revenge or a better world.  Likewise in this case the Devil is a hot young woman in a miniskirt.  All well and good, but while well done this does suffer from an inherent problem in ten minute plays--how to convey so much passion in so little time.  This story hinges on passion coupled with disappointment.  I enjoyed it, but did not feel it
simply because I never get a chance to really know the violinist.

Where One Heart Beats (by Ian Heath, directed by Francisco Roel) has the same problem, but gets around it via the raw intensity of what is happening between two people (Carene Rose Mekertichyan, Roman Guastaferro) once in love now beating themselves to a pulp over and over again.  In a locked room no less.  Eventually we learn a little bit about their backstory, how for some reason the matching tattoos have rendered each immortal while the other one lives.  Again, though, despite the good performances (as well as very above average fight choreography by Audi Resendez) this really does scream for a longer format to delve deeper into the stuff of the situation.  At least thirty minutes would be my guess

The Lottery (by Marnie Olson, directed by Corey Chappell) manages to a nice technical twist.  The scene is between two very real characters, a father (Hansford Prince) and daughter (Gioya Tuma-Wak) a few decades in the future.  They spend "Lottery Night" together every two years.  The father feels nervous, since in three days he will no longer qualify and then his name cannot be called.  The danger/mystery could have used some more intensity--what does this lottery entail after all?--but there simply wasn't time.  And the twist was a good one, but I think the performances really shone.

Starlight (by Andy Shultz, directed by Redetha Deason) introduces us to a young couple in love (Offi Ekah and Matt Penn) whose super-sweet romance feels threatened by his joining the army on the verge of a military campaign.  Again, the length of the piece works against a real emotional wallop, so the twist at the end simply doesn't move us much.  Everyone does a fine job, but frankly few subjects successfully lend themselves to this length.  I cannot put my finger on anything wrong, nor can I call it boring.  But we simply don't know these people well enough to really care very much.

Pretend Roses (by Tom Jones, directed by Sebastian Munoz & Andy Shultz) on the other hand is one of those that succeeds on its own terms in this short format.  A therapy session between a man (Jason C. Daniels), a woman with whom he seems involved (Carrie Muniak) begins even before the Therapist (Jerry Chappell) shows up.  The genuine pain all three seem to be enduring, having grown to the point of demanding the truth one way or another, plays out startlingly well.  I won't even spoil the twist, even though I did figure it out--a fact that took nothing away from my experience.

Swipe Left (by Thomas J. Misuraca, directed by Sebastian Munoz & Andy Shultz) rounds out the evening with a lot of laughs.  A young woman (Olivia Sundeen) waits for her blind date (Sam Grey), who runs late.  When he arrives, she expresses her dissatisfaction by "swiping left" on her smartphone, changing his behavior!  Does this sound funny?  Believe me, it ends up delivering more laughs than promised!  In no small part because the two cast members continue to shift between personality traits, preferences, attitudes, body language, etc. over and over and over again.

Overall a very enjoyable set of shows.

Tales from Tomorrow plays Sundays at 7:30pm until July 23, 2017 at the Studio/Stage, 520 North Western Avenue (just south of Melrose), Los Angeles CA 90004.

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