Strong Night of Short Plays

John Chatterton’s Short Play Lab
Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Review by
Inola M. McGuire

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Program A

The first play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Film Sonnet 5: La Passion de la Soulfrance” written by Ericka Mitton, directed by Jade Rojas and performed by four actors. This play made the audience think about a brothel or whore house in Paris, but the setting was that of a burlesque or strip club. It was a hostile environment among the three women while they were talking about sex and making money explicitly in Euro dollars on stage. Cat fights were rampant and two of the ladies were competing with each other for a supposedly part in a film.

However, the atmosphere changed when a young man entered the establishment and he pretended as though he wanted to be serviced by one of the ladies. This is the son of the oldest lady in disguise as a client. Two of the ladies were introduced to him by his mother, without knowing his identity at that moment, as one is naughty and the other is nice. Take your pick! The pick did not work out! There was a misunderstanding in the amount of Euro he had to pay. The mother of the young man, the senior lady in the club, went into the room with him to discuss price and service.

Behind a closed door the young man declared his true identity and his intentions. He and his mother returned to the stage. She told him why she gave him up. He did not want to hear her explanation. Both of them threw insults at each other. The other two young ladies looked on. One of the ladies realized that she is unable to sell her soul for money, so she took her things and her teddy bear and left the strip club. In that moment, she realized that she was unable to run from whatever she was running from. She had to face the music.

The message in this stage play speaks volume about how one’s past can surely catches up with him or her. It is best to deal with the situation and give it the awareness it needs. The fear of the truth has always been one of the driving forces that destroy the lives of many.

The second play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “An Excerpt from the Book of Adam” written by John Ladd, directed by Liana S. Afuni and performed by three actors. This play made the audience think about how Eve was deceived by the serpent in the Garden of Eden and their expulsion. In the book of Genesis, in the Bible, we learned that Eve strayed away from Adam and she was influenced by the third voice, that of the serpent. The stage performance of the play gave the audience a clear perceptive that in real life some people find ways to justify their behavior as Eve and Adam did by shifting the blame.

On stage, Eve’s description of the serpent is that of a creature that doesn’t bite. On the other hand, Adam referred to the serpent as a snake that bites. From creation, this couple was not on the same page in their thinking, and through that third voice; the serpent managed to convince Eve to go against God’s instruction. This disagreement tricked down to their children. The parents did not know where their children were and what they were doing. In the book of Genesis, it was told that Cain killed Abel.

The writer’s message was able to illustrate to the audience that if we allow that third voice to penetrate our relationship with the creator, we are going to face an upward battle because disobedience has deadly consequences. From the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, women are cursed to deliver their children in pain during child birth.

The third play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “When the Mocha Latte Hits the Fan” written by Arthur French, III; directed by Natasha Lynn Tucker and performed by three actors. This setting of this play is a neighborhood Starbucks where a mysterious lady wants to spend her time during the day sitting at a table without buying a cup of coffee to do her writing. One of the employees confronts this lady and tells her that she can’t take up space without purchasing at least a cup of coffee. She has to buy herself a drink! She objects to the thought.

Another guy comes out from the back and he orders the first guy to go back to his assignment. The second guy confronts this woman. He is her neglected son who was abandoned by his mother while she chased her dreams when he was younger. Now, she stays at a half-way house and she is unable to concentrate on what she needs to do in that environment during the day time. She wants to be able to enjoy the sun light and view from the location at the Starbucks store.

Ironically, she chooses the place where her son works. Was her visit to the store an unconscious attempt to reconcile with him? He was compassionate and he offers her something to drink after he tries to convince her of the company’s policy.

The writer’s message to the audience is the fact that all of our mistakes in life have consequences beyond our control. People in society have to take the time to examine the pros with the cons of our decisions. Chasing a dream is not a bad thing when there is a support system in place to help out. No man is an island!

The fourth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “A Visit from Breitenberg” written by Charles Durgin, directed by Christen Omantra Callahan and performed by three actors. This play depicts a period in history that most people want to forget, WWII. The setting is in war-torn Austria where a wife is stranded with her children and a volatile Nazi husband who wears his Nazi badge on his sleeve. Although the audience did not see the children, but in the dialogue there were references of them among the actors.

This Nazi fanatic husband of a daughter who is loved by her father chooses to leave her husband because of foreseen circumstances. The husband’s myopic view of the Nazi’s philosophy did not sit well with the wife and her father. The one conclusion that was clear to the audience was her leaving of her husband although being threatened by him with a weapon.

The writer’s message tells the audience that WWII was a trying time for many people in Europe. The domination of the Nazi regime and its over-zealous followers ruined the lives of many people and countries on the continent of Europe. A wife’s decision to save the lives of herself and her children speaks volume because she was not bound by fear and loyalty to a lunatic and a fascist Nazi regime.

The fifth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “The Off Chance” written by Teri Foltz, directed Teri Foltz and performed by two actors. The setting of this play was a laundry room, and the writer wanted the audience to see that one can air his or her dirty laundry anywhere and at any time.

It was a chance meeting in the laundry room for these two actors; but in the scheme of things; they crossed paths many years before at a hospital. The guy being a die-hard lover of his horoscope pays close attention to his daily activities. He writes them down and he lives by them. His behavior reflects what he reads. However, the lady enters the laundry room as a way of escape from her ex-boyfriend demand. She engages in small talk with the man and through conversing with him, both of them realize that they crossed paths a few years ago.

One of the man’s relative was hospitalized and he was told to visit the person in room 363 instead of room 336. The room number was actually transposed. The lady and the man’s relative were both hospitalized around the same time in the same hospital. The man recalls in the laundry room that he barged into the woman’s room and he saw her at her worst. She also recollects the encounter and what she said to him, too. Their chance meeting becomes a new beginning for both of them. They introduce themselves to each other.

The writer’s message to the audience is one that says our destiny is sometime governs by unforeseen forces. There are some people in many cultures who believe in horoscopes, and they do not venture out without checking the forecast of their daily activities.

The sixth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Really” written by Race Brown, directed by Clifford Berry and performed by four actors. This play reveals the consequences of infidelity between couples. Cheating is somewhat the norm in our society. In my opinion, the writer is trying to prevent members of the audience from becoming characters or victims in one of Investigation Discovery’s episodes.

A husband tries to kill his wife with a knife and the door bells rings. In comes his mistress, a younger woman, who puts her demands on this cheating husband. Another attempted murder takes place. The door bell rings again. This time, the boyfriend of the other woman follows her and another murderous attempt takes place. The bodies pile up for the audience to see.

The play surely entertains the audience at that moment. However, being a part of the audience, it was a very disturbing chain of events that play out in front of us. Cheating is rewarded with deadly consequences. The writer’s message was well received. I hope it was a scared-straight moment for many in the audience.

Program B

The first play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “The Woman who Wanted to Marry a Bear” written by Tom Dunn, directed by Tom Dunn, and performed by five actors. The setting of this play was a bedroom. There is a lonely woman in bed and a bear appears to be in the room with her. In my mind, and I think in the minds of other members of the audience, too; I was thinking what this world is coming to. However, after a few seconds, I snapped back into reality because it is just a play.

The voice-over characters were great and this gave the play some validity. This was a very emotional play because how someone, a woman in her right mind, wants to marry a bear. At one point, the woman tries to hide the bear in her home. The writer explains his positions through dialogue, and the woman was able to get the message that her wish was an impossible one because the authorities would never allow it to happen.

We have heard stories about how both males and females have done so many unlawful acts with animals in the past. Being tolerant of this notion was like an extremely large and bitter pill to swallow at one attempt without any liquid to assist you. Nevertheless, who am I to judge someone on his or her creative exploration with such a play? This play challenges the mental health of people in our society, and how will the authorities allow their citizens to push the envelope to satisfy their unconventional ways of thinking.

I think the writer was only trying to allow the audience to push its boundary as to what to accept as fact or fiction in our society. It was an eye-opening experience for me sitting in the audience. The whole premise is a troubling one whichever way it is analyzed.

The second play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “And Through Kim We are Saved” written by Elaine Alexander, directed by Amy Elizabeth Bennett, and performed by three actors. The writer tries to show the audience how there is redemption for the unrighteous if he or she seeks it.

The interactions of the actors were somewhat strange to me, but the message to the audience was loud and clear. At times, most people have to submit to the creator in order to find that inner peace within ourselves before fulfillment can be found. The most unlikely source is used to help us to realize our dreams and our God-given purpose in life.

The two Venice Beach roller-blading “missionaries” characters were able to reach a lost soul to seize that moment of clarity in her life. The dialogues among the characters were an inspiration to the audience. We have to keep hope alive because salvation is free. We all have to get use to it.

The third play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Chosen” written by Shari Umansky, directed by Shari Umansky, and performed by three actors. This play shows how fragile our lives can be from one extreme to another. Just imagine after a near death experience, a person finds himself confined in the Vatican against his or her will.

Being confined in a place against your will surely changes gear on one’s perception of freedom. It was an emotional roller coaster for the audience, but the writer was able to demonstrate a point-of-view that propels the notion of being taken and can’t do anything about it. Although this is a stage play, I heard stories that involved the Vatican in the past. It could have been the same experience for the writer.

The writer wants the audience to know that there are endless possibilities which enable us not to take things for granted in life. The Vatican has been a place of intrigue and secrecy for centuries. I really enjoyed seeing the play.

The fourth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “Sip and Savor” written by Thavma Terrestris Phillips, directed by Thavma Terrestris Phillips, and performed by three actors. This play makes obvious the power of friendship among friends. The actors were able to entice the audience with their dialogues, and the emotional ups and downs that generate trust and closeness among friends.

The sipping and savoring of coffee was an honor among friends until one of them wanted to prove something to herself and her friends, and they had to save their friend from hurting herself which was obvious to the audience. The writer wrote, directed and acted in the play, so the whole experience was a personal journey on different levels.

The play reminded me that I always had a problem with people who try to destroy themselves with their mischievousness. The writer’s message to the audience warns us of the over indulgence of some people who do not know or exercise restraint in their lives.

The fifth play of the series of The Short Play Lab was “According To Me” written by Sara Laursen, directed by Angie Kristic, and performed by three actors. This play was more of a he said and she said to the audience. It was obvious that each character had very high opinion and bruised ego to contend with in their explanations.

The audience saw what happened through each character’s perception, and this was quite entertaining. This play has a lot of potential and it is a rich teaching tool for others to learn from it.

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