SHORT PLAY LAB: APRIL reviewed by Inola M. McGuire

John Chatterton presents Short Play Lab: April

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The first play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “The Presence of Absence” performed by two actors. It highlighted an everyday issue in our society among couples of all races, creed and socio-economical back grounds. In the play, the middle-age man was unappreciated by his ex-wife during their marriage, and he purchased a robot that was manufactured in Japan and programmed with charm in order to serve as a worker to her master in his home. In his living room, he read the manual and he snapped the robot into operation. The robot became operational and it communicated with the middle-age man. He was able to tell the robot all about his life with his ex-wife, Stacy. He painted a negative picture of a very disagreeable woman who did not know how to be charming to her husband, yet he still pays her alimony and child support. His telling of their trip to the Caribbean resonated a lot to the audience. In my mind, I was only thinking about a spoiled American in the Caribbean on vacation. There was empathy in the audience for the middle-aged man. He was out of options in his life, so why knocked a good man down for taking the next step in his life. He unloaded himself to the robot like a dump truck emptying its garbage. The robot served him a drink. He was very happy! He probed the robot for information concerning what or all tasks it was capable of performing for him. Being starved for appreciation and love, the man realized that the robot can’t give him his ultimate desire, the emotional connection he desperately seeks from a woman. Communication between them became a struggle; something was missing in translation, on the issue of physical interaction with the robot. He just couldn’t find true love with his robot. In my opinion, I think the writer wanted the audience to search within itself and society as to the emotional toll of not being about to find true love and what else that goes with it.

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The second play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Watch The Gap” performed by two actors. The play made the audience think about getting on and off a LIRR train to and from Long Island. It is common knowledge that there are many gaps between platforms and train cars on this route. The setting was a train car or a doctor’s office in my mind with seats and a lone passenger in a monologue However, the actress demonstrated to the audience that she was in her own gap with a life of pain and alcohol while traveling the LIRR to and from her home in Long Island for many years. The writer wanted the audience to reflect on its own journey in life. If one is not careful, he or she may not hear the announcement and end up in a hole mentally that may be too wide for him or her to get out off on his The announcement of watch the gap is a metaphor for caution in our society. We have to pay close attention to the rules and warning signs as we travel the highway of life in different mode of transportation. Society is not confined to the LIRR train as its only approach to life’s problems. The writer wanted the audience to
notice their surroundings and be aware of them figuratively and literally. The irony of this play is the fact that the so-alone rider, with her bottle of alcohol, is escorted by an aide into her doctor’s office. The question remains in the audience’s mind, was she able to get out of her deep and mysterious place through medical intervention for her problems? Now, it is a wise thing to always listen to the messages of life to watch the gap.

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The third play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Love Me, Love Me Not” performed by two actors. The actors portrayed Romeo and Juliet living together and performing together on stage. The setting of the play was their dressing room where they were arguing with each other about their current physical beauty. Juliet’s character voiced her opinion to Romeo’s character about their relationship. Romeo reminded her that she was not the young maiden he met many years ago, earlier in their relationship. She demonstrated to him that make up and a few accessories can create the illusions of youth. Romeo’s character complained about his lack of physical agility and he proved his point to her by falling on the floor. Both of them heard the announcement about the time they had left before the curtain call. Romeo’s character put on his wig and his transformation was evident to the audience. The writer wanted the audience to know that we all can hold on to a fantasy with the aid of costumes despite the reality. They were only acting and playing themselves in a play about two lovers. In an ideal world, love is supposed to be blind. One shouldn’t attempt to highlight his or her lover’s faults or flaws; but most people do when they have been around each other for a specific period of time. In their mind’s eye, after being together for many years; they still want to see that younger version of the person they met. In time, physical beauty fails all of us, but love is timeless. The writer’s message to the audience reinforced the fact that love is timeless regardless of the actors who portray Romeo and Juliet. The actors’ living together may be their reality, but we all know that the original Romeo and Juliet were never able to live together because their story was a tragedy.

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The fourth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Title 91!” (Or how many police shots does it take to kill two Black men?) performed by three actors. The setting was the police’s bedroom. The timing of this play was a good one because there have been too many high-profiling killings of Black men in the news lately. In the line of duty is a code most police officers live by on their jobs, but the writer allowed the audience to realize that the conscience of man is very fragile, and the police was unable to run away from himself. As the saying goes, a man can run but he can’t hide from his own deeds. In the officer’s case, he was unable to hide from his own conscience in the play; and he was definitely in conversation with the spirit of death explaining his actions. In many instances, police officers were exonerated by the laws of man for killing another person, typically a Black man; but the burden of taking a life usually rest heavily on their psyche other than the public’s opinion. The spirit of death will stay with a killer and haunts him as it did to the police in the play. There is never a quick fix after the shedding of blood. The writer showed the audience the torment and sleepless night of the perpetrator who still try to live by the gun to defend himself.

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The fifth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Match Play” performed by three actors. The writer capitalized on technology which enabled the audience to appreciate the stretching of the truth of some people in order to create a false profile online. In our society, some older women have been experiencing a hard time finding dates, so it was very refreshing to witness the bantering of an older woman and a younger man on stage. The setting was a restaurant and the older woman sat at the table. The younger man entered and he looked around while speaking very loud on his cell phone looking for his date. The older woman placed a vase with a red rose on the table moments later. After, the young man realized that she was not the female he saw
online, he tried to get an explanation from her. However, a conversation perused between them; and the lady was able to influence him why she was very deceptive in her tactics. He recognized that the face of the younger woman was just a ruse. It was youth verses experience, and the cougar won in the end. The setting of the play changed and the older woman got her wish; they were in a hotel room and she was dress in a very seductive outfit. The writer showed the audience that the younger man was a lamb to the slaughter because he was not her equal, and she capitalized on his lack of experience. The cougar used her charm to break down his defenses. In most instances, the truth doesn’t work without pretense for one or both parties because we are living in a very superficial culture. Where dating is concerned, too many people have crossed the line with trickery, and the internet has enabled them to get their wishes met. Creativity online through match play is just the tip of the iceberg. Meeting someone in a public place or through an acquaintance is still a great way to find someone, but the writer gave the audience an opportunity to decide on what is best for each person. Dating online cannot be a one-size fit all solution for society.

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The sixth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Bless me Father” performed by two actors. The setting was in a church and the play was very touching to the audience. Now, the audience saw a priest sitting in the church with a very pious looks. The mood changed when a young and hostile man entered and began to talk with him. Like any trained man of the cloth, the priest told the young man that he needed to seek absolution from God. The word angered the man. He told the priest that he needed a resolution in his case. The priest ignored the word, “resolution” and reminded the young man that he needed absolution instead. Being angered, the young man began to tell his life story to the priest about his molestation by him many years ago. The promise the priest made to his mother of taking him fishing never happened. The story surely jolted the priest’s memory of his heinous act. He informed the priest about the aftermath of his deeds and how his mother found out about what happened to him. By this time, the priest’s vocabulary changed; and the young man delved into all of the details about how he was shunned by his own father. The writer message to the audience confirmed how the priest’s sinful act became the catalyst for a series of disastrous results throughout this young victim’s life. Not too long ago, the Catholic Church had to acknowledge that many of its priests were pedophiles who were transferred from one church parish to another in order to conceal their wrong doings. However, the priest in the play surely did not receive absolution. The jury is still out on the subject of molestation in the Catholic Church, and it is up to the audience to secure the lives of young boys and girls from becoming victims.

PROGRAM B: ————————————————————————-

The first play of the B series of The Short Play Lab was “A Nice Card From Wendell” performed by three actors. The writer wanted the audience to know that keeping in touch with your parents or anyone else, via snail mail, doesn’t mean that they have to get a blow-by-blow explanation of the person’s life. Holding back information, half-truths, from your love ones can be a good thing in the lives of many people.

In the play, the writer wanted the audience see a mother making an announcement that she got a card from her son, Wendell. That was a great gesture on Wendell’s part because less is always more. In the scene, the audience saw Wendell being interviewed by a woman who wanted to thrust him into the sleazy Escort service business. Wendell’s naivety or his cleverness saved him from the interviewer’s attempt to lure him into an immoral world in a big city.

Wendell is still job hunting in the play. He had a second interview, and this time; the interviewer wanted to know if Wendell had stock room experience, but he was really looking for a hit man with experience of using a gun. The audience wanted to know how inexperienced can one person be in a city. Once again, Wendell comes out without a job; but he did not fall into the pit of misery in order to gain employment.

The writer allowed the audience to think about their own lives and welfare in similar circumstances. Relocating to large cities or other countries is not an easy task, when they have always been dishonest people running legitimate businesses to drag unsuspecting people into lives of depravity. The jury is still out on whether it is wise to give your parents or others a detailed report of your existence in a new environment.

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The second play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “In the Scheme of Things” performed by two actors. The writer gave the audience some food for thought in the message of the play. The setting was a park in my mind where a well-dressed and groomed man sat on a bench as he read his newspapers, news from around the world. A homeless man passed by and he fell in front of the other man with his shopping cart.

The homeless man cried out to the well-dressed man for help and he refused to give a helping hand to him. He was rude to the homeless and helpless man, and he acted as though his refusal was the law. He insinuated to the man on the ground that he was worthless and he did not deserve his assistance. The homeless man told him that he lost everything during the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. The homeless man’s explanation did not faze the well-groomed man in anyway. He bombarded the homeless man with more insults.

The homeless man was determined to get his point across to the other man. He said that he relocated to New York City to be with his sister, but she became ill and died. He was unable to pay the rent and he ended up homeless. By the time, the homeless man tried to stand on his feet, and in so doing he found some money on the ground next to him.

The well-dressed man was not pleased with the homeless man’s discovery of the money. His response to homeless man was that God always tried to show him up. He well-dressed man was furious. With the finding of the money, the homeless man’s countenance changed as to say to the well-dressed man that God made a way out of nowhere. You got your chance to be a Good Samaritan and you blew it, Mr. Well-dressed man.

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The third play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Standing For Trayvon” performed by four actresses. The writer really touched the souls of the audience with a woman on stage portraying Trayvon Martin’s mother very distraught and her reluctance to become an activist at first for justice for her son. Although, Sybrina Fulton’s character was hesitant to move forward, and just wanted to mourn his lost; she was reminded by other mothers who had experienced the deaths of their own sons, too.

Now the portrayal of one of the women reminded her about the death of her son, Martin Luther King, Jr; and this performance brought a feeling of reverence over the audience. The writer proved to the viewers that the spirit can be energized to take great leaps of faith when it is necessary. The audience was of the age to have known that Martin Luther King’s mother, Alberta King, was assassinated on June 30, 1974, just six years after her son, at the family church by Marcus Wayne Chennault, Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia.

The writer wanted the audience to realize that despite our pain and tragedies, we all can rise to the occasion to represent our love ones. Trayvon Martin’s mother in the play had to embrace and wear the “hoody” to represent her son. Through violence, too many women of color had to rise to the occasion in the US and other countries in the world. There need to be a discourse about violence and the destruction of the youths with the use of gun fire.

Bravo, Sybrina Fulton! You stood up for your son, Trayvon Martin, for the world to see. I hope “Standing For Trayvon” is a preamble of a greater piece of work because the world can learn from the strength of this mother.

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The fourth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Books That Did Not Help Me Pick Up Women” performed by five actors. The writer picked a bar to be the setting for his stage play. Bars have always been a place to find or pick up a lover. However, there was this loser on stage who tried to find Miss Right through pretense by the use of literature. Like most unprepared suitor, this man was surely wooing in the wrong place.

The audience was entertained with the roller coaster ride of the desperado playing in traffic with his wanna-be bookish script, trying to pick up women without much luck to write home about. This was amusement for the audience, and the writer really gave those in attendance something to reflect on.

Searching for love shouldn’t be a scripted event. One needs to follow his or her heart for love. Mr. Desperado did not read this information carefully. His elementary erudite showed modest tenacity that was not quite good enough to find love and be on the same page with a woman he met in the bar.

The writer’s message to the audience was despite our current condition, he still performs miracles in our lives when we cry out to him. The homeless man cried out for help from man, but the great provider allowed him to fall on top of the money to supply his need for he is an on-time God.

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The fifth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Spooning” performed by one actor. This monologue was very interesting and the audience was able to get into the head of the writer. The setting was unusual but the audience surely discovered that the actor had a lot to say.

Being typecast as a spoon was a good thing on one hand, but the actress suffered for the art. She had to be one object in two different shows. The writer and actress wanted the audience to empathize with her. In my opinion, it’s employment and art converging together. That’s the sacrifice some people make to advance their careers whether it’s being a spoon or another item.

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The sixth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Tourniquet” performed by two actresses. The writer explained in the dialogue between the two women how some people deal with hurt. The audience was mesmerized by their interaction and how they were there for each other to bring in the New Year.

Grief is not an easy emotion to release without the aid of a friend or love ones to listen to the person who is hurting. Moral support can be just the medicine the doctor ordered for the grieving parties. The healing process is a great thing!

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The seventh play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Peanuts” performed by two actresses. The writer took the audience into the quick-fix world of science where there is no respect for meaningful research. The setting was an office where an older employee, a research scientist, was informed about the end of her project. The news was not well received by the aging scientist. The younger employee exerted her power with no regards for the humanity in the world of science.

The younger employee, now the new boss, showed her intolerance for quality work and the commitment for viable solutions. The older woman used her charm, and she was allowed to copy her data on a flash drive before she handed over her laptop to her supervisor. There was a cautionary tale in this play that employees must not leave their personal information on their job computers. It’s expedient to save all personal data on a portable hard drive.

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