‘Becoming Human’ by The Flying Muskrat Theatre Company by Yvonne French

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A group of young adults in Flying Muskrat Theatre Company in Falls Church has produced three thought-provoking one-act plays: a sad futuristic tale, an absurdist love story, and a collage of pieces about the lies that parents tell you.

9306711_origEveryone has a chance to shine in—or behind—the spotlight in the company, which was started by students from Falls Church High School and includes actors from various college theater programs. Brennan Jones and Melanie Reuter, both recent Falls Church graduates, started the company and co-directed two of the plays.

Sentiment, was written by Marie Lupia, a junior at Longwood University who won Flying Muskrat’s playwriting contest this year. A lot of thought and teamwork goes into the 10-minute show. Its themes include societal expectations, parental pressure, reproductive failure, abortion and humans as machines (and vice versa).

There are two robots being tested to become lawful human beings. The questions in the test are:  what would you do if you saw a child in need, what would you do if you saw a woman who was dying, and, if you were pregnant and either you or the baby had to die, which would you choose? One robot is overly-emotional and the other is more strategic. The emotional robot, F04 (Emily Dwomik), fails the test because she is too human. Dwomik displays a wide range of emotions concerning her impending shut-down. The winning robot is Dea, played by Yalda Moslehian, who is uncanny in her ability to appear distant but engaged.

F04’s gene-splicing creator, Ambrose (Ezgi Acur), reveals a complex character in telling her own history while encouraging her robot to keep going. The lab director, played by Michael Garvey, was silhouetted on a scrim in such a way that it made him look more like a robot than any of them. In all, it is excellently conceived and executed, right down to Sara Sampson’s red-apple cheek blusher for Dea, which underscores her true nature as a machine, and the Star Trek-like costumes by Ava Hockenberry. The guards, Stephanie Miller and Zack Camp, maintain functionary roles with appropriately serious faces.

Jones also directed The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year, an absurdist short by Tony Award-winning playwright John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation). The time is pre-hippie 1960s. A man and woman meet in the park. She (Evelyn Hernandez) hasn’t talked to anyone in 11 months and He (Riley McGrath) is a nutty fibber. When they first meet she is feeding the pigeons and he breaks it up, insisting that he is saving her life. Riley’s movements and Hernandez’s facial expressions are both quite funny.

Lies My Parents Told Me is a series of vignettes conceived by the cast, developed in rehearsals, scripted by contributing writer Wes Johnson and co-directed by Jones and Reuter. The lies are intentionally clichéd but the lie-bashing is creative. Santa Claus is disproved by a video camera hidden in the tree by Tiara Hairston, who is a natural actor. Matthew Gaughan is a droll one when he tells his girlfriend (Hernandez) that she is not the most beautiful girl in the world like her mother told her. Betsy Ryan plays the mom or old lady throughout the evening and shined in an improv session the company tacked on to the end of the show.

The troupe showcases every aspect of theater. Most of the multi-tasking crew worked on publicity and it is accordingly impressive, right down to the custom candy wrappers by Graphic Designer Max Johnson.  Hockenberry’s dress for Hernandez in The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year was well-fitted and had good details. Other crew members are Stephanie Miller, Assistant Director for Loveliest Afternoon; Caitlin S. Chenvert, Assistant Stage Manager; and Zack Camp, Julian Hockenberry, Susan Kidd, Julia Kun, Mikalanne Paladino, Rebecca Skinner, Rich Stanage, and Alan Terrazas.

Running Time: 85 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.

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Becoming Human plays tonight, Saturday, July 6th at 7 p.m. at The Flying Muskrat Theatre Company at James Lee Community Center – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. Tickets are available at the door. For information about their next play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), visit their website.

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