Thursday, December 18, 2014

24 Hour Play Festival - ROUND 3! • Theatre Lab & The Players Project Theater Company

Theatre Lab & The Players Project Theater Company were back a couple Saturdays ago for the third installment of their 24 Hour Play Festival at Webster Groves High School, and like last year, it was a blast. The rules remained the same -- six writers (up from five last year) were given a setting, a genre, a number of characters, and one week to come up with a script of around 15 minutes. This year, the writers also had to work in a holiday prop. The scripts were randomly assigned to directors, who were randomly assigned actors by pulling names out of a hat. The ensembles then had 24 hours to memorize, stage, costume and rehearse it before unleashing the plays on the public. Crazy, right? The evening was affably hosted by Pat Niday of The Improv Shop, and there were raffles held between the plays, and yummy sandwiches courtesy of Snarfs. I mean, what more could you ask for, really?

First up was Jason Klefisch's thriller, "Cringe", directed by Todd Schaefer and starring Nick Kelly, Ben Watts and Matt Pentecost. Watts is at Tully's Tavern waiting on a date when a very drunk Kelly comes in, barely able to walk, but very entertaining.
Pentecost, the owner of the establishment, amiably tells jokes and serves the two drinks. After awhile, Kelly insists that Watts, still dateless, join him at a table, and it turns out that Kelly's not drunk at all -- he's very sober, and royally pissed. He's the father of the girl Watts was waiting for. See, Watts met her online, and she's just 16 years old, and Kelly, who's already suffered the loss of a son, is in no way gonna let this predator off the hook. The owner of the bar is actually Kelly's brother, and after he locks the door to the bar, he raises a snow shovel in Watts's direction as the lights go out, and you can only imagine that Watts was in for a major beat-down. Kelly was a standout, going from sloppy drunk to stone-cold sober on a dime.

"Trinity Park", a drama written by Wendy Renee Greenwood, directed by Rachel Tibbetts and starring Rachel Hanks, Mollie Amburgey and Larissa White, finds two squabbling sisters meeting in a park at the request of their mother. Their arguing is interrupted by a homeless woman (Hanks) who's been eavesdropping on their conversation. Hanks turns out to be the third sister who ran away from home some time earlier. She banished herself to the park because she felt responsible for the death of her nephew while he was in her care. Hello, awkward reunion. All three turned in great performances, with Amburgey's potty-mouth grabbing much laughter.

Carl Wickman's comedy, "What You Need", was directed by Chris Chi and starred Brian Claussen and Michelle Catherine. Claussen shows up on Catherine's doorstep at 3 o'clock in the morning, claiming to seek shelter from questionable types outside, and once Catherine lets him in, he confesses that he's really a knife salesman. He shows off his wares on a banana and a little Christmas tree. Catherine's character is obviously taken aback with this odd late night encounter, and his conspicuous consumption of her bananas, but hey, at least she got some nice cutlery out of it. Maybe it was a dream…? Definitely the most bizarre offering of the group, open to various interpretation.

Writer Greg Fenner uses the acronym "R.O.M.E.R.O.S." for his dark comedy, directed by Em Piro and starring Jason Klefisch and Blaire Hamilton. In it, a green-faced zombie dad (Klefisch) meets up in a restaurant with his daughter (Hamilton) to announce his engagement to a human, and his "mixed" daughter is none too pleased. The title is taken from "Night of the Living Dead" creator, George A. Romero's name and stands for Regular Ordinary Mortals Eating Rations Of Skin. Ha! Get it? R.O.M.E.R.O.S is the support group Hamilton's character has joined to help her deal with the challenges that come with being half-zombie, half-human. Good stuff. Klefisch's shuffling, growling zombie was hilarious.

"Fun and Games In The Bedroom", written by Zak Allen Farmer, directed by Ellie Schwetye and starring Margeau Baue Steinau, Reginald Pierre, Troy Turnipseed and Carl Overly Jr. feature a group of friends getting stoned in a bedroom. They have no idea how they ended up there, but that's of little consequence once they realize the kids are on their way home with a pot-smoke filled bedroom and one of the four friends unconscious on the floor, the victim of a game of football with a mini Christmas tree gone awry. Good times.

Evan Kuhn and Amy Kelly.
"Line" was a melodramatic Victorian era romp written by Spencer Green, directed by Ryan Foizey and starring Kimi Short, Amy Kelly and Evan Kuhn. Kuhn and Kelly are in line to buy a turkey for their respective holiday dinners, but there's only one left. I mean like one turkey left in the whole town. After pouring out sob stories about why they deserve the bird, Kuhn and Kelly realize that they knew each other as children and end the night with the promise of rekindling their relationship. Awww.

While the judges for this year's festival -- Max on Movies’ own Max Foizey, theatre blogger, Steve Allen and actor, Alan Knoll, turned in their ballots, we were treated to some entertainment from Pat Niday and members of the Zero Hour Playfest Troupe who took suggestions from the audience to improvise a wacky murder mystery involving a bathtub and dreidels. What?! The winners were then announced (listed below), but everyone involved did a great job, especially when you consider the challenges involved, and this festival remains something to look forward to every year. I seriously have no idea how they do it. This kind of ballsy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants theatre is among the most fun kind of theatre to see, so keep an eye out for another installment next year.

The fearless creative talents behind this year's
24 Hour Play Festival.
24 Hour Play Festival - ROUND 3!

Writers: Greg Fenner, Wendy Greenwood, Zak Allen Farmer, Carl Wickman, Spencer Green and Jason Klefisch.

Directors: Ryan Foizey, Todd Schaefer, Chris Chi, Em Piro, Rachel Tibbetts and Ellie Schwetye.

Actors: Evan Kuhn, Matt Pentecost, Carl Overly Jr., Reginald Pierre, Ben Watts, Troy Turnipseed, Nick Kelly and Brian Claussen.

Actresses: Rachel Hanks, Mollie Amburgey, Blyre Cpanx, Jordan Bitticks, Amy Kelly, Larissa White, Michelle Catherine, Margeau Baue Steinau, and Kimi Short.

Lighting operator, Jacob Noce; sound operator, Hannah Leatherbarrow; running crew, Todd Schaefer and Maggie Pool.

Best actor - Nick Kelly
Best actress - Amy Kelly
Best director - Em Piro
Best script - Jason Klefisch (For "Cringe")
Best Ensemble - "Line" by Spencer Green (Hal Phillip Walker)

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