For a bit of fun and excitement this summer you should check out the Colonial Players Bits ‘N Pieces One Act Play Festival. With so many exciting entries to the festival this year the creative team had to split the production into two separate nights to allow for maximum enjoyment of all eight productions selected. Slate A, including Nighthawks, Labor Day, The Enchanted Mesa, and Bismarck Comes Back is the slate that I had the distinctive pleasure of getting to review, not knowing before hand that all eight simply couldn’t be seen in one action packed night.
Written by Evan Guilford-Blake and Directed by Michael Forgetta, gives us a brief exploration in transforming picture into stage scene. The play idles around a painting of the same name, taking place in a diner with characters inspired by those in the painting. The design of the show is picturesque, Forgetta opens and closes the play with a moment frozen in time, spotlights on each character, their costumes in stark contrast to the darkness, the moment just like pausing in front of a painting. But beyond this the play quickly loses the audience’s interest.
The actors, Danny Brooks, Toby Dixon, Holly Hendrickson, and Kyle Sullivan do well enough with the dialogue they are given, but the problem is there’s just too much dialogue. There is a heavy load of unnecessary exposition to create background stories for these characters that just never become relevant. And when the action finally does arrive between Gil (Sullivan) and Ray (Dixon) it isn’t a big enough pay off for all the time spent wading through unnecessary moments of dull lifelessness. The four actors have brilliant moments of emotional outbursts, but they play is mostly inconclusive and really just a slice of a bigger unfinished work.
Running at just about twenty minutes this production is an intense character study between two brothers and is arguably the best show in Slate A. Written by Brent Englar and Directed by Bob Brewer we get a teenage boy and his older brother out in the woods to celebrate the teen’s birthday, only the teen is running away because he wants to be a writer and his father just doesn’t understand.
Brewer does an excellent job of putting Englar’s flawless dialogue to work between his actors. The show carries quickly and with raw sincerity that makes the emotions hit home for the audience. Their bickering and arguments feel real; the exposed nerves of siblings trying to defend their parents to one another surfacing as a repetitive topic in this show. James Poole as the older brother exudes an arrogance of knowledge while still trying to provide the voice of reason and comfort to his younger brother Patrick (Tom Beheler.) Both men play through the kinship of brotherhood extremely well and make this show the most captivating of the four in Slate A.
The Enchanted Mesa
The best thing about this particular production is the sound track, designed by Richard Atha-Nicholls, highlighting the noises of nature; and the lighting design, provided by Andrea Elward, making sunset and twilight a reality upon the stage. This play, written by George McGuire and Directed by Jennifer Dustin, is another two person character exploration, only without all of the depth in the characters or interest in the story as Labor Day.
The two actors, Laura Ivey and Kyle Sullivan attempt to make real people out of the characters that McGuire has written, but the dialogue is trite, repetitive and often just flat out bland. There’s no build to scenes where they suddenly start shouting at each other, the emotional depth is lacking in the text and the story fizzles out anti-climactically. Not the best selection for the festival.
Bismarck Comes Back
Easily the funniest show offered in Slate A this comic trollop presents the audience with a woman and her cat. Only the cat isn’t so much a cat as he is the ghost of her former cat who is currently between lives. Directed by Robin Schwartz and Written by Margaret Barton Driggs the show has many comic moments to offer while racing to a rather dark and twisted conclusion. Jean Berard as ‘Warm’ the woman who previously owned the cat, creates a rather quirky character that the audience enjoys.
Tom Beheler as Bismarck is uniquely spunky in his own right and embodies many feline qualities in his physicality. The pair plays well off one another, finishing each other’s ideas and correcting one another with their versions of memories. It’s a cute exploration that gets horrific in a hurry, but is still thoroughly enjoyable.
It is a shame that I didn’t get the chance to nab Slate B, I was told by Producer/Director Beth Terranova that many of the shows in Slate B are zany comedies. Slate B includes Improvisation or The Shepherd’s Chameleon, Here To Serve You, 12:21pm, and Star Crossed. For information about the other half of this festival, click here.
Running Time for Slate A: approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Running Time for Slate B: approximately 2 hours with one intermission