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‘The Things We Do’ . . at Baltimore Playwrights Festival at Spotlighters by Amanda Gunther

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Three new one-act plays from Baltimore area playwrights take to the stage at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre as a part of the 2012 Baltimore Playwrights Festival. It’s a mixed bag of things that actually have nothing to do with each other, but can loosely be linked by the fact that they are all cutting edge works with new ideas for the stage. Director Lynn Morton challenges five actors to transform the characters in three short plays. Morton drives her actors to import raw emotions, real moments, and lively dimensions to their portrayals. She and the cast succeed in bringing life to these three new productions in the best fashion anyone could hope for. It is a difficult task set forth to animate texts that are often unpolished and not yet perfected but these five performers under Morton’s guidance accept the challenge and rise easily to victory.

Protest

'Protest' featuring C-Mo Molloy and Siobhan Beckett. Photo by Ken Stanek.

The brief encounter of two characters at a protest of “Flerbing” invites the audience to more closely exam the human relationship between passionate causes and the will to commit to them. Playwright Adam Meyer creates a fictional action that Tyler (C-Mo Molloy) and Lizzie (Siobhan Beckett) show up to protest in a public park. Meyer’s use of a fictional creation rather than an actual subject that is currently controversial allows the audience to really focus on the message of the story. It becomes everyman’s protest in a sense letting each person in the audience identify with a cause that they hold of high importance in their personal beliefs. They play dissects the depths to which right and wrong play into protesting a belief, whether or not things can simply be right or wrong and if there are margins for exceptions and gray areas. Molloy and Beckett do an incredible job of developing their characters fully in the twelve short minutes it takes this play to open, occur and conclude. The characters are simplistic by nature but the actors bring a dynamic quality to them, exchanging real dialogue with purposeful pauses, subtle emotional gestures and good use of spatial relationships to one another.

Replay

'Replay' featuring Co-Mo Molloy and Rachael Lee Rash. Photo by Ken Stanek.

This particular play is a more shocking emotional thriller than anything else. Playwright Mark Scharf captivates the audience with a twilight zone moment of sorts between two characters that rapidly evolves into something deeper than it seems. While Scharf’s concept is sheer brilliance, the dialogue is at times extremely circular but not to a point of being significant in its repetition. The emotional tension that is built into the text is very strong from the beginning but starts a bit too strong as just a few short minutes in there is nowhere higher to build to and this leaves the male character shouting for the sake of being angry at points that could have otherwise led to an emotional explosion. Molloy as the main male character does have an explosive nature in this production. Playing opposite of Molloy is Rachael Lee Rash. Her character is demure and innocent with subtle bursts of emotional instability. Despite the hang-ups with the dialogue both these actors make this play an edge-of-your-seat drama.

A Good Brain is Hard to Find

'A Good Brain Is Hard To Find' featuring Alexander Scally, Siobhan Beckett, Rachael Lee Rash, and C-Mo Molloy. Photo by Ken Stanek.

The title alone speaks volumes about the playwright and as this play falls on the latter half of intermission. Playwright Rebecca Wyrick creates a grotesque monster of a play with hackneyed ideas and recycled plot lines, attempting to pass them off as new unexplored territory. The concept is essentially a combination of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster with the totalitarian futuristic society of any number of sci-fi films and the emotionally crippled The Phantom of the Opera without all of the passion glamour and intrigue that these three separate stories have on their own. Wyrick’s work plays out much more like a screenplay for film than a script for the stage with awkward cut scenes and pithy dialogue. The characters are shallow and unfinished and the plot lacks cohesion. It flows, but from where and to where is consistently unclear. She’s making an attempt to be vague and mysterious like so many of those futuristic city settings with corruptly powered high councils are on the sci-fi channel but only manages to confuse the audience with what’s really going on and by the end, which is clearly intended to tragic, so I just didn’t care.

This is not for lack of effort on the actors’ part. Andrea Bush as the cold calculating inspector imports as much stone stoicism into her character as humanly possible. Butting heads with rogue scientist Siobhan Beckett throughout the show, these two women give it everything you could ask for and more but there is only so much one can do with a poorly assembled script. C-Mo Molloy makes an appearance as ‘the creature’ which is probably the only good part about this play. He is shattered and emotional despite having clunky dialogue and no real build to any of his motives or actions. Molloy invests a great deal of energy and effort into this character trying to make him convincing for the audience.

Two out of three isn’t too bad, and the first two are really intense and definitely worth the trek to see this show.

Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes with one intermission.

The Things We Do…an evening of one acts plays as a part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival through Sunday August 26, 2012 at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre – 817 St. Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 752-1225, or purchase them online.

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