Friday, July 18, 2014

LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL I • St. Louis Actors' Studio

The St. Louis Actors’ Studio's LaBute New Theater Festival, featuring premiere one-act plays, began its second appearance last Friday after a successful debut last year. Over 250 world-wide submissions were whittled down to seven finalists and three high school finalist that will be presented over the next month. The first set of four finalists will be presented from July 11th through the 20th and the second set of three begin on the 25th and run through August 3rd, with the high school finalists presented as free stage readings on the 26th. The festival's namesake, playwright and screenwriter Neil LaBute, has also once again written a world premiere one-act for the festival, “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, that will be presented nightly.

We kick off the night with Steve Karp's comedy, "Rubbas", directed by Milton Zoth. And it's rubbers -- as in prophylactics.
Reginald Pierre (Tom), B. Weller (Senator)
and Emily Baker (Ms. Goldman).
Photo credit: John Lamb
An Alabama senator (B. Weller) is going over one of his state's most lucrative companies with his aide, Tom (Reginald Pierre). Alacorp produces condoms, and though the senator doesn't want the company to draw too much attention from his conservative constituents, he's ready to fight a government push to move production to China, where higher quality rubbers can be made cheaper. The play ends feeling a little unfinished, but provides laughs with good performances by Pierre, Emily Baker, who plays Ms. Goldman, the opposing government official, and a very funny Weller who plays the senator with all the convincing polish of a seasoned politician.

GP Hunsaker (Tailor).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Aleks Merilo's understated "Little Moscow" features GP Hunsaker as a tailor who tells a customer a story from his childhood involving his intolerant father, blindly loyal to Russia, his older sister who brings a Jewish suitor to meet the family, and the fascination that inspired him to become a tailor. Chris Limber directs this one, and though the script meanders a bit, Hunsaker quietly lends a sensitively intimate performance. 

"I Want to Show You Something", written by Jan Henson Dow and also directed by Limber, begins with a very nervous Mrs. Spencer (Baker) struggling to work up the nerve to open up to psychiatrist Dr. Fisher (Chopper Leifheit) about the abuse she suffered as a child. The story becomes chilling as Dr. Fisher pulls out Mrs. Spencer's long-hidden secrets that go deeper that he expected, with a strong performance by Baker, shifting subtly in tone and demeanor on a dime in this, one of the more successful pieces.

Emily Baker (Mrs. Spencer) and Chopper Leifeit (Dr. Fisher).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Thomas Pierce's "Blue Lagoon", directed by Milton Zoth, takes place in Istanbul, where Russell (Weller), an intelligence analyst in hot water, anxiously waits to meet a contact he hopes can help him. When he's joined by Alice (Jenny Smith), an older, chatty tourist, he becomes annoyed. When Alice reveals herself as his contact, Russell is skeptical -- even after exchanging a few code phrases. But Alice is more than meets the eye in this futuristic comedy, as Russell soon finds out. Weller and Smith deliver great performances in this look at drones, and what may be in store for their future.

Neil LaBute's play, “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, directed by Zoth, finds Bill (William Roth) having lunch on a park bench, when he's approached by Kip (Reginald Pierre), who strikes up a friendly conversation. Kip's tone begins to turn as he questions Bill about his acquaintance with his wife and four year-old son. Pierre is impressive, slowly and convincingly displaying the fierce protection of a father who will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe, and Roth is exceptional as Bill, a man insistent about his innocence, knowing he will be forever judged by past crimes.

Jenny Smith (Alice) and B. Weller (Russell).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The performances were solid throughout, and Patrick Huber's scenic design provided a simple set, easy to accommodate quick set changes, with a back wall used for projections. The directors handled the sound design duties for their pieces, Bess Moynihan provided the lighting design and Carla Landis Evans provided the costumes and props design.

This festival is a wonderful addition to the St. Louis theatre scene that shouldn't be missed, providing the opportunity to see world premiere works in our own backyard. LaBute, with over twenty plays and a dozen-plus film credits to his name, is slated to be in town on the 25th and 26th, and is reportedly down for continuing this festival indefinitely. YES!


LABUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL I

“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” by Neil LaBute • Directed by Milton Zoth
Cast: Reginald Pierre (Kip) and William Roth (Bill).

Reginald Pierre (Kip) and William Roth (Bill).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Finalists (July 11 - 20):

"Rubbas" by Steve Karp, New York, NY • Directed by Milton Zoth
Cast: Reginald Pierre (Tom), B. Weller (Senator) and Emily Baker (Ms. Goldman).

"Little Moscow" by Aleks Merilo, Brooklyn, NY • Directed by Chris Limber
Cast: GP Hunsaker (Tailor).

"I Want to Show You Something" by Jan Henson Dow, Bluffton, SC • Directed by Chris Limber
Cast: Emily Baker (Mrs. Spencer) and Chopper Leifheit* (Dr. Fisher).

"Blue Lagoon" by Thomas Pierce, Seattle, WA • Directed by Milton Zoth
Cast: B. Weller (Russell) and Jenny Smith (Alice).

Finalists (July 25 - August 3):

"Coffee House, Greenwich Village" by John Doble, New York, NY • Directed by John Pierson
Cast: Paul Cereghino (Waiter), Ellie Schwetye (Pamela) and Nathan Bush (Jack).

"The Thing with Feathers" by Susan Steadman, Wilmington, NC • Directed by John Pierson
Cast: Chopper Leifheit* (Aaron), Caroline Adams (Mara) and GP Hunsaker (Police).

"Comeback Special" by JJ Strong, Los Angeles, CA • Directed by Tom Martin
Cast: Paul Cereghino (Jesse), Ellie Schwetye (Bonnie) and Chopper Leifheit* (Elvis).

High School Finalists - Stage Readings • Directed by Aaron Orion Baker (July 26 at 11 am):

"Prosaic Beatings" by Jared Ray McSwain, Stockbridge, GA
Cast: Terry Meddows* (Hal) and Michelle Hand (Audrey).

"Pisces" by Aidan Murphy, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL
Cast: Pete Winfrey (Madison) and Jennifer Theby Quinn (Waverly).

"The Hushed Machine" by Amelia Himebaugh, Lindbergh High School, St. Louis, MO
Cast: Nancy Lewis (Ethel), Terry Meddows* (David), Michelle Hand (Michelle) and Pete Winfrey (Andrew).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through August 3 | tickets: $25 - $30
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Creative:
Scenic design by Patrick Huber; lighting design by Bess Moynihan; sound design by Milton Zoth, Chris Limber, Tom Martin and John Pierson; costume and props design by Carla Landis Evans; stage manager, Amy J. Paige.

Monday, June 16, 2014

THIRD ANNUAL ST. LOU FRINGE • HEADS UP!

Here's a quick reminder about St. Lou Fringe's third annual arts festival coming up this week -- June 18th through June 22nd. This'll be gone before you know it, and this performing arts extravaganza is too awesome to let slip by.

The Lou's very own three year-old performing arts festival was recently recognized by CNN as one among nine "intriguing" fringe festivals worth checking out. Click here to read it. St. Lou Fringe works the way it has for the past couple of years, with thirty-five productions (up from thirty last year) and over 100 performances happening in six venues (Kranzberg Black Box, Kranzberg Studio, Duet, The Stage at KDHX, FUBAR, and Satori) around the midtown corridor. A festival badge, required for admission, can be purchased for 5 bucks online and at Fringe Central Station in Strauss Park. Individual performances range from 5 to around 12 bucks, which is seriously a good deal. You can check out the individual shows by clicking here. In addition to the shows, "Street Fringe" takes place daily with food trucks and buskers and live music at the stage at Fringe Central.

Playing cards that serve as your tickets,
the wonderful Ghost Light magazine --
a must-have, full of Fringe info and a schedule,
and of course, the Fringe badge.
At a recent Fringe preview that admirably managed to squeeze in a few minutes of 23 performances, St. Lou Fringe founder and executive director, Em Piro, set the stage for this year's festival. There were three times as many submissions as there are slots for performances this year, and even though the festival is the jewel in the crown, St. Lou Fringe staged benefit events throughout this past year. These included its first annual Five-Fifths event, the incredibly collaborative “Alice in Fringeland,” breaking Lewis Carroll's story into five acts showcasing fringe artists representing dance, theatre, poetry, puppetry and burlesque. "Act Your Pants Off" was staged this past May, where nine talented local actors competed in a series of acting challenges in the intimate, rowdy space of Meyer's Grove. (An evening I will not miss if they do this again.)

In that CNN article, Piro says, "We want people to come to the grounds and linger." Well, with the timing of these productions and the location Fringe has once again secured, lingering shouldn't be a problem. Personally, I can't wait.

Check out this handy program guide, get your badge, check out the performances, and get your Fringe on starting June 18th!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

HANDS ON A HARDBODY • New Line Theatre

New Line closes its 23rd season with "Hands on a Hardbody", a regional premiere. The musical is based on a 1997 documentary that follows several contestants vying to win a brand-new Nissan Hardbody truck. The challenger who can keep one hand on the truck for the longest time (no leaning, no squatting) wins it. In an economy that's kicked that crap out of everyone in the small town of Longview, Texas (boasting three Walmart Supercenters), the shiny red truck taking center stage represents a brass ring of sorts for everyone, but only one walks away with the keys.

Playing out over five days on the hot asphalt lot of Floyd King Nissan, this battle of endurance introduces us to ten hopefuls, starting with a cocky Benny Perkins (Jeffrey M. Wright), who won the competition two years earlier, has just enough knowledge of Asian philosophy to make him dangerous, and advises his competitors, "If you can't hunt with the big dogs, stay on the porch with the pups".
Jeffrey M. Wright (Benny Perkins).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Benny forms an alliance with JD Drew (Todd Schaefer), who's  jobless after falling off of an oil rig, and has no business in this demanding contest to begin with, as his devoted wife Virginia (Alison Helmer) keeps reminding him from the sidelines -- at the ready with ice packs and juice boxes. Ronald McCowan, portrayed by a rich, full-voiced Marshall Jennings, has dreams of starting his own business, and this ex-track star thinks a steady stream of snickers bars will sustain him. Greg (Ryan Foizey) and Kelli (Marcy Wiegert) meet and connect during the competition with dreams of escaping Longview for greener pastures, while Mexican-American veterinary student, Jesus Peña (talented newcomer Reynaldo Arceno) wants to sell the truck to help cover his tuition fees. Chris (Luke Steingruby) is recently out of the Marines, grappling with his own issues, and Jesus-loving Norma (Anna Skidis), puts her trust in God to see her through. Skidis's soulful "Joy of the Lord", preceded by a "holy-ghost" inspired fit of laughter, is a standout. A gutsy, raspy-voiced Janis Curtis (Cindy Duggan) suspects there's something not quite above-board going on ("It's a Fix"), and is backed up by her biggest supporter, her cardboard hat-wearing husband, Don (Keith Thompson).
Taylor Pietz (Heather Stovall)
and Mike Dowdy (Mike Ferris).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Heather (Taylor Pietz), whose main concern is staying fresh during the competition, does have a less than innocent acquaintance with the manager of the dealership (Mike Dowdy), and his employee, Cindy (Margeau Baue Steinau), has enough troubles without the legitimacy of the competition being called into question. While they are both hoping this side-show will bring in a much needed boost in sales, New Line fave Zachary Allen Farmer plays Frank Nugent, a corndog eating (you just have to look for it in person…) radio d.j. who's broadcasting the competition.

These rock solid ensemble members sell their individual opportunities to shine, and add strong vocals to a number of songs in the show's country, gospel and rock flavored score, including the harmony-rich "If I Had This Truck". Rob Lippert's scenic design puts the Hardbody front and center with parking lot accents and Kenneth Zinkl's lighting design subtly displays the passing of days. Sarah Porter and Wiegert nicely outfit each small-town Texan with great costumes and Kerrie Mondy is responsible for the sound design. The powerful vocals of the cast test the mics on a couple of occasions, but the band, under Sue Goldford's direction, sounds tight.

Anna Skidis (Norma Valverde)
and Jeffrey M. Wright (Benny Perkins).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Director Scott Miller has a knack for bringing renewed life to musicals, old and new, and "Hardbody" is no exception. Sucking you in from the first extended number, "It's a Human Drama Thing", this show, though relatively static in nature, makes the investment in each character an agreeably compulsory act, and as the field is whittled down to a few, your heart breaks a little each time someone takes their hand off of that truck. Go see it. It's up until the 21st.

Also, lyricist Amanda Green was there on opening night. That was cool. No, I didn't ask for a photo, but yes, I did get an autograph for my program. :)


Cast of New Line's "Hands on a Hardbody".
HANDS ON A HARDBODY

Book by Doug Wright
Lyrics by Amanda Green
Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green
Directed by Scott Miller
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through June 21 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Zachary Allen Farmer (Frank Nugent).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Cast:
Reynaldo Arceno (Jesus Peña), Mike Dowdy (Mike Ferris), Cindy Duggan (Janis Curtis), Zachary Allen Farmer (Frank Nugent), Ryan Foizey (Greg Wilhote), Alison Helmer (Virginia Drew), Marshall Jennings (Ronald McCowan), Taylor Pietz (Heather Stovall), Todd Schaefer (JD Drew), Anna Skidis (Norma Valverde), Margeau Baue Steinau (Cindy Barnes), Luke Steingruby (Chris Alvaro), Keith Thompson (Don Curtis), Marcy Wiegert (Kelli Mangrum) and Jeffrey M. Wright (Benny Perkins).

Creative:
Assistant director, Mike Dowdy; scenic design by Rob Lippert; lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl; sound design by Kerrie Mondy; costume design by Sarah Porter & Marcy Wiegert; props master, Kimi Short; stage manager, Gabe Taylor.

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Sue Goldford; guitar, D. Mike Bauer; cello, Emily Ebrecht; violin, Nikki Glenn; bass, Andrew Gurney; second keyboard, Joel Hackbarth; percussion, Clancy Newell.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

THE HOMECOMING • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Playwright Harold Pinter's works have fallen into a category called, "Comedy of Menace". STLAS's current production, "The Homecoming", exemplifies this definition, proving that nearly fifty years after the play's London premiere, this family struggle for dominance and sexual power still has the capacity to jar, amuse and disquiet. Love…

The patriarch of this noxious clan is Max (Peter Mayer), a widower, retired butcher and withering pillar of strength in suspenders trying to maintain supremacy in his bleak North London home. He rules with constant jabs from his armchair throne, and the threat for the top-dog spot comes from his icy son Lenny (Charlie Barron), a violent pimp who wears a perpetual smirk of contempt. Max's youngest son Joey (Nathan Bush), a dimwitted aspiring boxer, and his brother Sam (Larry Dell), a docile chauffeur, also live in the house and pose no threat, but are subjected to Max's tyranny nonetheless. The wrangling for the upper-hand shifts when Max's eldest son Teddy (Ben Ritchie) brings his wife of six years, Ruth (Missy Heinemann), back to his home in the middle of the night.

Charlie Barron (Lenny), Larry Dell (Sam), Nathan Bush (Joey),
Peter Mayer (Max), Ben Ritchie (Teddy)
and Missy Heinemann (Ruth).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The family had no idea that Teddy, a philosophy professor now living in America, was married with three sons of his own, and the presence of a woman in the house is something these guys haven't had for some time. After Max initially thinks that Ruth is a prostitute hired for a little cavorting, Teddy properly introduces her as his wife. With the matriarch of the family long gone, remembered by Max with a mixture of attraction and repulsion, the boys readjust to the female energy in the place, answering overt flirtations from Ruth (formerly a "photographic model for the body") with animal-like ogling one moment and yielding reverence the next.

Peter Mayer (Max), Charlie Barron (Lenny), Ben Ritchie (Teddy),
Nathan Bush (Joey) and Larry Dell (Sam).
Photo credit: John Lamb
You have to wonder if Teddy is as shocked by his family's behavior as we are. Probably not. I mean, he knows these guys -- not that that makes the resolution any less bizarre -- a resolution that sends Teddy back to America alone. After being abroad, engaged in intellectual stimulation with his teaching, Teddy's return seems unsettling for him, rendering him ineffectual, while Ruth, who describes the States as a vast landscape of rocks and insects, makes you wonder just whose homecoming this is. Actually, this play will make you wonder a lot. Flecked with Pinter's heavy trademark pauses that weigh as much as the dialogue, the baffling choices made are just something you gotta see in person. 

Under Milton Zoth's skillfully balanced direction, this proficient cast creates distinctly drawn characters with wonderful chemistry. Max is a nasty fella, and Mayer's verbal barrages cut deep, but then he turns on a dime to reveal a sad, sad man. Dell makes for a dead-on counterpoint to his brother Max, meek in action and speech, brushing up against the higher circles through his job -- a dove to Max's hawk. Barron is a standout as a snarky, stony-eyed Lenny, and he attacks and defends against his father like a dog in a pen that's too small. Heinemann's Ruth navigates this group of men maintaining a firm hold of the reins, doling out measures of mothering affection and sexually provocative teasing. Ritchie as the oldest son Teddy, who calibrates to his family with much less ease, does a marvelous job, almost standing in for the audience with his expressions -- almost helpless and unwilling to stand in opposition too strongly. Nathan Bush rounds out the cast as Joey, a dense pushover, breathing through a slightly parted mouth with a humorously blank face. Patrick Huber's scenic and lighting design underline the rundown conditions of the house, with the costume design of Carla Landis Evans complementing each character.

Charlie Barron (Lenny), Peter Mayer (Max),
Missy Heinemann (Ruth), Ben Ritchie (Teddy),
Larry Dell (Sam) and Nathan Bush (Joey).
Photo credit: John Lamb
This classic, meaty story may leave you feeling like you've been sucker punched, but go on -- sink your teeth in. It's running at the Gaslight until June 8th. 


THE HOMECOMING

Written by Harold Pinter
Directed by Milton Zoth
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through June 8 | tickets: $30.25 - $35.25
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Cast:
Peter Mayer* (Max), Missy Heinemann (Ruth), Charlie Barron (Lenny), Nathan Bush (Joey), Larry Dell (Sam) and Ben Ritchie (Teddy).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic/lighting design by Patrick Huber; costume/props design by Carla Landis Evans; sound design by Robin Weatherall; fight choreography by Shawn Sheley; stage manager, Amy J. Paige.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PRAYER FOR THE GUN BUG • OnSite Theatre Company

OnSite Theatre's current offering, "Prayer for the Gun Bug" will satisfy the minds and bellies of theatre adventurers. In keeping with the company's tradition of presenting site-specific theatre, this one takes place at Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant on South Grand. This world premiere collection of short plays written by Carter Lewis, playwright-in-residence at Washington University, includes dashes of the surreal in each play, making for a savory production that's easy to sit back, take in, and enjoy. With some tasty Ethiopian food!

"No-Preying" finds Heddie (Peggy Billo) and her friend Agatha (Jacqueline Thompson) nibbling and gossiping about the latest happenings at Meskerem's, recently the source of a controversy about whether or not prayer should be allowed in the restaurant. With a "No Praying" sign above the door, Heddie and Agatha, an atheist and agnostic respectively, spar about spiritual beliefs and behavioral instincts, when a giant mantis (Pete Winfrey) in black leather with huge eyes, folded fore-limbs and all, enters the room. Yep -- one of these guys, only way better dressed. The arrival of this huge bug drives the conversation about spirituality to a whole different and unexpected level.

After an intermission, Evelyn (Billo) and Alex (Gary Wayne Barker) are discussing the state of our crowded little planet in the second play, "A Geometric Digression of the Species". With a world count of around 6 billion people, Frank and Evelyn are convinced that there's no way humanity will be able to meet the demands of a constantly growing population. Their agreement concerning the theories of Thomas Malthus aside, this married couple has contributed their fair share to the population with eleven kids of their own, leaving Alex with a longing to carve out a little private space for himself and Evelyn thirsty for intimacy. Their cravings become evident once they are asked to leave the restaurant because there's no room for them. Anywhere in the restaurant. And no room for parking, either. I know, right? I said it was surreal. Hello, Malthusian catastrophe.

"Art Control", following the second intermission, finds Donna (Thompson) having a hard time focusing on the conversation with her husband, Frank (Barker). Donna's been patiently waiting for her gluten-free injera, but is abruptly brushed off by their waiter (Winfrey). When Donna finally becomes truly and highly annoyed, she pulls a gun on the waiter to make her point clear. Turns out the waiter's packing too, along with Frank. The standoff ends when Officer Joe (Paul Edwards) comes to the rescue. He's got no gun, but he does have a clicker. What?! Things get seriously meta when an audience member (Billo) calls bullshit on the whole thing, making fun of the actors, calling out the writer, and demanding a more satisfying end to the proceedings. WHAT?! Seeing "the fourth wall" completely obliterated is fun, and Billo's character adds some spice to this piece that threatens to meander, and completes an overall entertaining night out.

Lewis made some slight adjustments to his one-acts to accommodate the cozy surroundings of Meskerem's, and along with Bill Whitaker's breezy direction and the energy of a solid and fearless cast, OnSite continues its tradition of presenting unique theatre boldly. Also, Robert Van Dillen is credited with costume design, notably Winfrey's awesome praying mantis getup.

For some yummy Ethiopian cuisine and the kind of theatre experience that only OnSite can offer, check it out! It's running until the 25th.


PRAYER FOR THE GUN BUG

Written by Carter Lewis
Directed by Bill Whitaker
Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant, 3210 S. Grand Blvd.
through May 25 | tickets: $30
Performances Fridays -- May 16 and 23 at 9pm, Saturdays -- 17 and 24 at 4pm and 9pm, Sundays -- 18 and 25 at 2pm

Cast:
Peggy Billo* (Heddie/Evelyn/Audience Member #1), Gary Wayne Barker* (Alex/Frank), Paul Edwards (Waiter #2/Officer Joe), Jacqueline Thompson (Agatha/Valet/Donna) and Pete Winfrey (Mantis/Waiter #1).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Costume design by Robert Van Dillen; stage manager, Linda Menard.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

BACHELORETTE • Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

The display of alcohol fueled bitchiness among women is nothing new, but the vicious appetites of the three women featured in Leslye Headland's play firmly places the dark in dark comedy. When four high school friends get together for a bachelorette party night of self-indulgence, the sting of life's letdowns are veiled behind booze, pot, cocaine, random sex and a meanness that makes The Real Housewives look like choir girls.

Regan (Ellie Schwetye), Gena (Cara Barresi) and Katie (Wendy Renée Greenwood) were the popular girls back in the day, and now these post-collegiate friends meet up to celebrate the pre-wedding festivities of their "friend", the bride-to-be, Becky (Jamie Fritz). Gena and Katie had a falling out with Becky years earlier and are crashing the party, invited by Regan, the maid of honor. These three are already half-past plastered by the time they reach their posh Manhattan hotel room, provided by Becky, and once they realize that there is enough chilled champagne for at least 2 bottles each, it. is. on.

Cara Barresi (Gena), Wendy Renée Greenwood (Katie)
and Ellie Schwetye (Regan).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell of RumZoo Photography
Gena, trying to recover from a recent breakup, is used to turning heads when she walks into a room, and shows only the faintest glimmer of self-awareness while Katie, the ultimate party girl and former prom queen, now works in retail, lives with her folks, and careens out of control by the end of the night. Regan seems to be the most promising of the three -- an alpha bitch with a long time doctor-to-be boyfriend and a good job, who wonders why Becky is the one who gets to get married.

Their one unanimously declared advantage that they hang onto is the fact that unlike Becky, they're not fat. After a thorough trashing of Becky and a detailed discussion about blow jobs, a couple of guys that Regan picked up join the happenings, determined to get laid. Jeff (Jared Sanz-Agero) is the arrogant one, but manages to carry on a reasonable exchange with Regan, at least long enough to get her in the sack. The good-hearted pot-head named Joe (Carl Overly, Jr.) bonds with Katie over cell phone selfies and a few hits of weed. The activities near a fever pitch just as Becky, who's been spending time with her fiancé, drops in to check up on her maid of honor. Oy.

Jared Sanz-Agero (Jeff) and Ellie Schwetye (Regan).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell of RumZoo Photography
Director Rachel Tibbetts (also the sound designer) draws out the malicious best in her cast, and though the pacing is a little rushed at the start, intensified by the echoey space, the tempo settles in about a quarter of the way into the play. Barresi, Greenwood and Schwetye turn in great performances and make for a fearsome threesome. Tibbetts and Schwetye are responsible for the swanky scenic design, Bess Moynihan handles the lighting design and Tracey Newcomb-Margrave is credited for the wedding dress construction.  I won't even tell you what happens with the dress…

Wendy Renée Greenwood (Katie) and Carl Overly, Jr. (Joe).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell of RumZoo Photography
How appropriate that this play falls within SATE's “Season of the Monster”. Monsters indeed. They remind me of those girls whom you DID NOT want to cross in high school, while the thought of being friends with them was even less palatable. It's one hell of an entertaining evening, but don't bring the kids. This is the last weekend to check it out!


BACHELORETTE

Written by Leslye Headland
Directed by Rachel Tibbetts
through May 17 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Jamie Fritz (Becky).
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell of RumZoo Photography
Cast:
Cara Barresi (Gena), Wendy Renée Greenwood (Katie), Ellie Schwetye (Regan), Jared Sanz-Agero (Jeff), Carl Overly, Jr. (Joe) and Jamie Fritz (Becky).

Creative:
Lighting design by Bess Moynihan; scenic design by Ellie Schwetye and Rachel Tibbetts; sound design by Rachel Tibbetts; wedding dress construction by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave; stage manager, Mollie Amburgey.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

24 Hour Play Festival - ROUND 2! • Theatre Lab & The Players Project Theater Company

This past weekend, Theatre Lab & Players Project Theatre Company teamed up for the second installment of the 24 Hour Play Festival, held at Webster Groves High School. This is one of those cool, one-night-only theatre things that I'm always telling my friends about.

The deal is, 5 writers are given a genre, setting and a line that has to be incorporated into the script. (The audience doesn't know what the line is until the performance.) The writers have 7 days to complete a 10 or so minute play, and the randomly selected directors and actors have 24 hours to memorize, stage and rehearse it before performing the plays for the public the next day. Love, right? Not only does the festival result in five new works, it's also a special night of fresh theatre for the audience, and a blast for the artists who come together to work on their pieces.

There was a humorous thread of offing other people than ran through many of the plays, starting with "In", written by Spencer Green and directed by Edie Avioli, with Sarah Porter, Rachel Hanks and Amy Kelly in a murderous pact to whack each others' boyfriends. Their boyfriends may not be cheating on them at the moment, but they will eventually, so why not adjust the gender balance of the world and get rid of 'em now? These three received an award at the end of the night (listed below) for Best Ensemble.

In "Preserver", written by Rachel Fenton, the blossoming relationship between two men play out in a studio apartment. Director Christina Rios Kelley had the toughest challenge, with the play being sans dialogue. The actors mouthed words, silent movie style, with accompanying film projector sound effects and written titles. Evan Fornachon, whom we see moving into a new apartment at the start, and Carl Overly Jr., his eventual boyfriend, do great work with an exacting script.

"About Time", written by Steve Peirick and directed by Todd Schaefer, starts with Wendy Renée Greenwood breaking into a bar. She soon meets Evan Kuhn's character, the son of the former owner, saddled with the responsibilities of a bar that's slated to close down for good in a day. These two have suffered recent losses, and the comfort within the walls of that bar, holding memories for both, was very nicely translated, with Greenwood and Peirick receiving awards.

"Twin Pines", a zestfully wacky melodrama written by Zak Farmer and directed by Ryan Foizey, finds three friends, Nick Kelly, Brian Claussen and Sarajane Alverson, in a park commemorating the loss of their good friend. Whom they killed a few years earlier. After they establish the reality of what's going on, they individually profess their undying love for another member of this tri-friendship -- spotlit and… well… very melodramatic. And then there was some more murder. It was hilarious.

"The Animal" finds the tension between married couple, played by Terry Meddows and Rachel Tibbetts, so thick you could cut it with a knife. The hen-pecked husband crumbles at the weight of his wife's taunts, entertaining bad thoughts with a puppet. You heard me. Written by Carl Wickman and directed by Michael Amoroso, it was a perfect ending to a great night of new plays.

Basically, theatre-lovers are pretty lucky in this town -- in addition to the number of companies here, there are a few of these troupes that host annual new play festivals. The fact that this one has that 24 hour spin on it makes this festival all the more exciting to see. Keep an eye out for the next one -- Theatre Lab & The Players Project Theater Company plan to make a habit of this. Yay!!


24 Hour Play Festival - ROUND 2!

Writers: Spencer Green, Rachel Fenton, Steve Peirick, Zak Farmer and Carl Wickman.

Directors: Edie Avioli, Christina Rios Kelley, Todd Schaefer, Ryan Foizey and Michael Amoroso.

Actors: Evan Fornachon, Carl Overly Jr., Evan Kuhn, Nick Kelly, Brian Claussen and Terry Meddows.

Actresses: Sarah Porter, Rachel Hanks, Amy Kelly, Wendy Renée Greenwood, Sarajane Alverson and Rachel Tibbetts.

Creative:
Lights - Ryan Tuminnello, sound - Jonah Schnell, musical entertainment by Chris Sears. 

Awards:
Best Actor - Evan Fornachon
Best Actress - Wendy Renée Greenwood
Best Director - Ryan Foizey
Best Writer - Steve Peirick
Best Ensemble - Sarah Porter, Rachel Hanks and Amy Kelly.

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