Saturday, October 9, 2010

So, How Was that 24-hour Theatre Thingy, Anyway? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Added John Thomason of BocaMag.

It's taken a few days for reaction to the 4th annual 24 Hour Theatre Project to manifest in print, but the immediate response at curtain was "wasn't that fun?"  There were a lot of tired directors and playwrights, but the show ran without a hitch, and the plays, while definitely not final works, were largely enjoyable, and a couple of pieces hold real promise.

The event is primarily a fundraiser for The Naked Stage, who produces the event. In addition to the performance, there was a silent auction in the lobby.  And the event also served as a kick-off to the South Florida Theatre Festival, so SouthFloridaTheatre.Com (a.k.a. the Theatre League of South Florida) provided some hospitality for the attendees.  This year's event was hosted by The Caldwell Theatre Company.

I'll intersperse comments from Christine Dolen, the Herald's Drama Queen, Bill Hirschman of the South Florida Theatre review, and John Thomason of Boca Magazine. Mary Damiano was there, but the South Florida Gay News sticks to a tedious once-a-week-period publishing schedule that made lots of sense back in the 1990's, so we'll have to wait until Monday for her take on it.

Opening Statements...

The fourth edition of Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project is history, having played to a sizable audience of people who were appreciative, giddy and/or exhausted on Monday at the home of Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company.
The South Florida theater community refers to the Carbonell Awards ceremony as theater prom because everyone dons formal wear and parties late into the night. They should start referring to The Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project as theater kegger.
Last night at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca, Miami’s Naked Stage hosted its annual “24 Hour Theatre Project” fundraiser, a yearly treat in which dozens of South Florida’s theatrical luminaries put aside grievances and band together to write, direct and star in eight brand-new short plays to be performed before a live audience of their peers over the span of one sleepless day. Considering that the playwrights had nothing to go on save a wacky title when they began the process at 7 p.m. Sunday, the results were astonishing — a testament to the boundless strength and creativity of our theater community.
Whoo-eee, John's a little verbose, eh?

Overall Description...

The eight short written-overnight plays were decent to delicious, their sleepless authors in varying states of near collapse.  As always, the quality of the work that South Florida's acting and directing talent pulled off in a mere 12 hours felt close to miraculous.
The result in Monday's kegger was delightfully undisciplined, uneven, loose fun with actors forgetting lines, ad libbing, breaking up on stage, falling over furniture, spewing spittle, but having a hell of a good time. Like an inebriated freshman, the plays were occasionally brilliant in their insights, sometimes they wandered off into the darkness.
The shows were peppered with inside jokes only die-hard SoFla theater people would get, many coming at the expense of writers and directors...
Henry VIII's Mail Order Bride

With great work from Amy McKenna as a lust-filled playwright-director and a cheating (but funny) cameo from director Avi Hoffman as her kvetching elderly hubby, Finstrom's bubbly play got the evening off to a wacky start.
Tony Finstrom wrote the hilarious Henry VIII's Mail Order Bride,  directed with a score of comic flourishes by Avi Hoffman. Finstrom depicted an Irish director/playwright played by Amy McKenna who is auditioning inept actresses Julie Kleiner and Lindsey Forgey to star in her play with leading man Stephen G. Anthony. His character, a TV action hero injured in an accident, lisped when off stage but suddenly found a plummy English accent when auditioning with the women.
(Actually, he stammered and stuttered, but you get the idea).

For the most part, the plays were acted and directed withsmoothness and polish, but gaffes were a welcome inevitability for an event like this, and many proved to be funnier than the scripted material, as when Stephen G. Anthony, playing a palsy-suffering actor in Tony Finstrom’s Henry VIII’s Mail Order Bride, spit up a wad of saliva on his shirt and barely kept a straight face in turn.
Ooh, I think we could have skipped that bit; TMI, don't cha know.

Dinner with Dracula

...the crooning Count (Christopher A. Kent) lures a Facebook innocent (Andrea Conte) to his castle for a "bite," much to the dismay of his smitten housekeeper (Laura Hodos).  "Dinner" turns out to be a very much alive out-of-work actress, Lela Elam, who offers a wildly funny, profane and truth-filled rant about what it's like to be...Lela Elam.  Under Barbara Bradshaw's direction, Dinner was a stitch.
Andrew Rosendorf , whose Cane opens Florida Stage's season next month, wrote Dinner with Dracula, directed by Barbara Bradshaw. It starred Christopher A. Kent as the famed fanged fiend, Laura Hodos as his assistant, Andrea Conte as his next victim and Lela Elam as an actress who seems to be on the menu.
Um, well, that wasn't worth cutting and pasting, was it?  But still, it's interesting to see how differently people can react to the exact same piece.

The evening’s most memorable show-stopper was, without a doubt, Andrew Rosendorf’s “Dinner With Dracula,” a pitch-perfect absurdist theater piece with the titular Count (Christopher A. Kent) reborn as an effeminate, guitar-strumming Hispanic who lures na├»ve women to his Transylvania lair through – what else? – Facebook. Carbonell Award winner Lela Elam appears only from the shoulders up, literally chewing the scenery when she emerges from a bed of lettuce. She plays herself in this pivotal part, resulting in one of the cleverest self-conscious meta performance I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe something this inventive didn’t exist 24 hours earlier.

...the most artfully hilarious piece came from one of the region's most successful playwrights, Michael McKeeverOMG...ROTFLMAO featured an ebullient Karen Stephens speaking that IM shorthand to share news of her engagement with her uncomprehending (and deadpan funny) best pal (Nancy Barnett); her friend's almost-grown kids  (Adam Simpson and Carrie Santana) also figured into the Internet shenanigans... Director Adalberto Acevedo and a cast that nailed the prolific playwright's latest took a happy audience to a place just shy of ROTFLMAO.
One of the funniest works was written by the prolific Michael McKeever. His OMG&ROTFLMAO,  directed by Adalberto Acevedo of the Alliance Theatre, starred Karen Stephens as a Facebook-obsessed woman addicted to speaking in the shorthand of text messages. But even better was Nancy Barnett (managing director of Florida Stage) as her best friend who cannot understand a word or initial she is hearing. Co-starring were Adam Simpson and Carrie Santanna as Barnett's children.
This particular play was the most "finished;" not only was it uproariously funny, it had a story arc that led to a satisfying and oddly believable conclusion.

Odds 'N' Ends

Bill mentions another play that was satisfyingly complete, A Storybook Funeral:
Almost as good, but far more touching, was the bittersweet A Storybook Funeral, written by Chris Demos-Brown (author of Florida Stage's When the Sun Shone Brighter)  and directed by Michael Leeds. It depicted two couples in cars en route to crucial meetings: Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt and Lorenzo Gutierrez as lovers preparing to meet his parents; and Terry Hardcastle and Matthew William Chizever as a gay couple travelling to pick up a child from an adoption agency.
This was another well developed piece that would do well with some technical supprt, but would be stronger still has a film short.

I can not say that any of the pieces were turkeys, although some were really more closely related to comedy sketchs than full blown plays.  But in David Sirois' outrageous Amputease we see a direct descendant of  One Leg Too Few, a Peter Cook contribution to Beyond the Fringe.

I think the most inspired piece was Fardle's Bear, written by Lucas Leyva, who apparently watched even more Japanese giant monster movies than I did.  Not only was the story a unique direction to take, the stylistic choice was unexpected, but perfect given the context of Leyva's story.  Oh, the story?  A peak into the lives of a village ravaged regularly by giant monsters - King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra, Mecha Godzilla - told in Kabuki.  With musical accompaniment by Ken Clement, and vocal solos by Beth Dimon, with Irene Adjan and Ryan Didato being "operated" as if they were puppets by stagehands.  I can't even imagine imagining it.

1 comment:

  1. The director of Fardle's Bear was Shari Upbin