Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BRIEFS: A Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays • That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE Magazine

That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE were back again last weekend for "Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBTQ plays,” presenting eight works selected from over 200 nation-wide submissions. Presented by Pearl Vodka and celebrating its 5-year anniversary, the festival’s cornerstone of diverse subject matter has attracted a wider net of St. Louis talent and also widening LGBTQ and racial diversity. The plays were varied in tone, but there was a thread of family, love and acceptance that seemed to run underneath many. Max Friedman, playwright of “The Grind,” directed by Gad Guterman, was the winner of this years’ second annual Ken Haller Playwriting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth.

Jared Campbell and Kai Klose.
Photo credit: John Lamb
In Friedman’s play, a couple of young men meet via an ever growing invasion of online dating apps, with opposing perspectives on relationship building vs. quick hook-ups. Michael (Jared Campbell) isn’t used to the intimidating arena of online dating, while it’s overfamiliar to Chris (Kai Klose).

Jacqueline Thompson directs Vincent Terrell Durham’s affable “Black Baby Jesus,” where Darryl (Darian Michael Garey) is dreading going to yet another Christmas Eve dinner at his boyfriend, Richard’s mom’s house.
Carl Overly and Darian Michael Garey.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Richard (Carl Overly) has not come out to his family yet, and his mom thinks her son and Darryl are “just friends.” Darryl can’t stomach another holiday dinner down the table from his man, instead seated next to “groping Aunt Thelma.” After a little conversation and an unexpected phone call, they take their first steps towards coming out as a long-time couple to the family.

James Still’s “When Miss Lydia Hinkley Gives a Bird the Bird” finds a women’s literary club, circa 1850, together for their regular meeting, when Lydia (Laura Singleton) bristles at the idea of allowing married ladies into their circle. To her shock and dismay, another member, Della Mann (Nicole Angeli), has recently become engaged. After some delicately cloaked suggestions, Lydia’s heartbreak is clear. To confirm any doubts, she catches the ladies off guard with a provocative recitation of a few titillating passages from Gray's Anatomy. What?! Yeah. Pamela Reckamp directs.

Donna Weinsting, Rachel Tibbetts,
Nicole Angeli, Maggie Wininger and Laura Singleton.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“I Knew It,” written by Scott C. Sickles and directed by Matthew R. Kerns, features Lavonne Byers and Shannon Nara, last seen together in Max & Louie’s “The Killing of Sister George,” as the wives of rock celebrities. Jodilyn (Nara) is devastated to discover the proclivities of her husband, while Francesca (Byers), used to the drill, calms her concerns and challenges her to adopt a new frame of mind. But this wasn’t a “my husband is sleeping with this woman!!” scenario. Jodilyn shockingly discovers her husband in bed with Francesca’s husband. (Jagger...? Bowie...? Maybe...?) The chemistry between the actors works wonderfully, and was a standout for me.

Shannon Nara and Lavonne Byers.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“When Oprah Says Goodbye,” written by Dan Berkowitz, takes place in an elderly folks home, with grouchy resident Rose (Thomasina Clarke), after having the room to herself for a minute, dreading the arrival of a roommate. It turns out that her new bunky, Julie (Peggy Calvin), has known Rose for years, and grudgy love triangles are mended with renewed friendships.

Charles Zito’s “Runaway” shows us a close family where Rose (Jenny Smith) has come to her brother’s house to fetch her gay teenaged son, Tommy (Pierce Hastings). Tommy has run away to Uncle Tony’s (Rich Scharf) because Rose won’t let Tommy’s boyfriend sleep over. While Rose tries to talk her son into coming back home, a widely known secret of Uncle Tony’s comes up. Yes, Uncle Tony -- we all know you’re gay. This subtext provides a humorous dynamic to the proceedings.

Thomasina Clarke and Peggy Calvin.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Local playwright and actor Stephen Peirick writes and directs “A Comfortable Fit,” with a casual day of shoe shopping between Gwen (Kim Furlow) and her daughter Jennifer (Emily Baker). Gwen is trying to fix up her divorced daughter with shoe salesman, Charlie (Casey Boland), who, while being a nice guy, doesn't play on Jennifer's team. Peirick’s story surprises with the revelation that Gwen, recently transitioned, is Jennifer’s dad, and made all the sweeter for the love and understanding father and daughter still share.

In Kathleen Warnock’s “The Adventures Of...” Maggie (Sarah Porter), a burgeoning writer, introduces us to one of her favorite childhood tv shows, featuring Prince Kal (Brian Claussen) and his trusty companion Zoron (Todd Schaefer). All of the scenarios that Maggie describes are played out with comedic zest by Claussen and Schaefer. In a gratifying turn, we learn that Maggie has her own reasons for personally identifying with this duo of heroes.

Rich Scharf, Jenny Smith and Pierce Hastings.
Photo credit: John Lamb
With the festival expanding year after year, it’s exciting to see what will be offered next, as one of the only festivals of short LGBTQ plays in the nation. Keep an eye out for it next year, and make sure to snag tickets. It’s only for an all too brief weekend.


BRIEFS

Rialto Ballroom, 3547 Olive, St. Louis 63103
Run concluded

Emily Baker and Kim Furlow.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“Baby Black Jesus” written by Vincent Terrell Durham, directed by Jacqueline Thompson.
Cast
Richard: Carl Overly
Darryl: Darian Michael Garey

“When Miss Lydia Hinkley Gives a Bird the Bird” written by James Still, directed by Pamela Reckamp
Cast
Constance Owen Fauntleroy: Donna Weinsting
Della Mann: Nicole Angeli
Lydia Hinkley: Laura Singleton
Mary Sampson: Rachel Tibbetts
Eliza Jane Twigg: Maggie Wininger

“The Grind” written by Max Friedman, directed by Gad Guterman
Cast
Michael: Jared Campbell
Chris: Kai Klose

Brian Claussen, Todd Schaefer and Sarah Porter.
Photo credit: John Lamb
“I Knew It” written by Scott C. Sickles, directed by Matthew R. Kerns
Cast
Francesca Strange: Lavonne Byers
Jodilyn Riggs: Shannon Nara

“When Oprah Says Goodbye” written by Dan Berkowitz, directed by Fannie Belle-Lebby
Cast
Rose: Thomasina Clarke
Julie: Peggy Calvin
Anne: Sarah McKenney

“Runaway” written by Charles Zito, directed by Christopher Limber
Cast
Tony: Rich Scharf
Rose: Jenny Smith
Tommy: Pierce Hastings

“A Comfortable Fit” written and directed by Stephen Peirick
Cast
Gwen: Kim Furlow
Jennifer: Emily Baker
Charlie: Casey Boland

“The Adventures Of...” written by Kathleen Warnock, directed by Ryan Scott Foizey
Cast
Maggie: Sarah Porter
Prince Kal: Brian Claussen
Zoron: Todd Schaefer

Production Staff
Executive Producers: Joan Lipkin and Darin Slyman
Associate Producer: Jimmy Lesch
Productions Manager/Video Design: Michael B. Perkins
House Manager: Kate Warden
Assistant Stage Managers: William Bush and Quinn Erb
Box Office Managers: Kevin Schmidt and Becky Galambos
Script Submissions Manager: Becky Galambos
Marketing Intern: Jared Campbell
Dramaturg: Gad Guterman

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