Source Festival: ‘In the Midst: Six 10-Minute Plays’ by Kim Moeller

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FOUR STARS
The six 10-minute plays presented on Friday night at the 2013 Source Festival offer a feast for theater lovers and those who love innovative storytelling. The collection, entitled In the Midst is very loosely based on the theme of characters in the middle of a crucial turning point in their lives. With joy, wit, pathos, heartbreak, and perceptiveness, there’s a little something here for everyone. There is a mummy, a snowmen, a very pregnant woman, bereft parents, two online daters, and a couple in a hospital waiting room.

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The play featuring the couple in the waiting room is the best of the lot. Pioneers, by Molly Hagan and directed by Joel David Santner, gives us very little detail but is riveting as a young couple waits. We don’t know why they are at the hospital but we are absorbed as they imagine themselves in another time and place. Kathleen Cole Burke and Logan Sutherland are superb as the couple. Santner’s choice to put only two simple chairs on stage and rely on Hagan’s words and the actors’ talents is brilliant. Pioneers will linger in my memory for many days and weeks to come.

First Stop: Niagara Falls.Photo courtesy of Source Festival.
‘First Stop: Niagara Falls.’ Photo courtesy of Source Festival.

While the characters are familiar in Renee Calarco’s First Stop: Niagara Falls, we still feel like voyeurs as we watch a birthday party for an expectant first-time mother who is turning 32. Amy (Sarah Ferris) is torn between the anticipation of the baby and regrets over things she never got to do. Her celebration is challenged by the personal agendas of her co-workers, from the backstabber hoping to take over Amy’s job (Anna Lathrop) to the party planner who just wants everything to go well (Stephanie LaVardera) to the n’er-do-well who doesn’t really care about much anything (Alex Badalov). There’s also the manager (Alex Perez) whose focus is weeding out inappropriate statements and a narrator (Emily Kester) who gives the piece a short-story come-to-life feel. Director Jeremy Skidmore does a terrific job of keeping the whole thing moving and Calarco’s dialogue is fresh and engaging.

Reflections by Jonathon Cook and directed by Kelsey Mesa doesn’t work quite so well. A five-year old girl has disappeared and her parents, during their meeting with a grief counselor, disclose her unique supernatural ability. It’s an interesting idea but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Joshua Dick breaks our heart in his portrayal of the father. He gives a strong performance despite a weaker story and is able to keep the overwrought character from going over the edge. Lynette Rathnam as the mother doesn’t have much of a role other than trying to calm her husband. Dexter Hamlett’s role as the grief counselor is simply to ask questions. I wish the concept had been developed in a different way.

Thankfully, Rathnam and Hamlett get a better opportunity to showcase their talents in Frosty: A Chilly Tragedy with Sexy Bits. Written by Krista Knight with music by Barry Brinegar, the ten-minute tale offers an exuberant view of a snowman who exists only briefly and the woman who falls in love with him. Kelsey Mesa’s direction makes good use of the space and brings the two characters to life in living color. Knight’s script is crisp and lively and the two actors connect with one another and with the audience to make this one of the highlights of the evening.

'Pas de Deux for a Microwave Night.' Photo courtesy of Source Festival..
‘Pas de Deux for a Microwave Night.’ Photo courtesy of Source Festival..

Pas de Deux for a Microwave Night is the frothy, just-sit-back-and-enjoy story of the evening. Written by Steve Lewis, the play presents two lonely people (Dana Maas and Alex Perez) looking for a love connection through the internet. We see their alter egos (Melissa-Leigh Bustamante, who is also the piece’s choreographer and Ryan Tumulty) do a hopeful dance of love in their search. Directed by Joel David Santner, the actors inhabit every corner of the small space making us feel we are a part of the couple’s pursuit.

What’s a girl to do when a mummy invades her house…especially when her artist brother is content to let her confront the monster. It doesn’t quite seem the right time to work out deep-seeded family issues but dad’s appearance from beyond the grave brings forth a confrontation. Eric Appleton’s The Return of the Living gives the actors little original dialogue or action. There’s lots of screaming and rather frantic chaos (as one might expect when a mummy is in the house) but Director Joel David Santner is unable to salvage the production. Grant Cloyd as the brother is fun to watch and Anna Jackson gives it a good try, as does Jim Osteen as their father but in the end, the few bright spots of humor are not enough to overcome the rather formulaic storyline.

Chosen from more than 600 submissions, the Source’s 10-minute plays offer a distinctive theater experience. Source Festival combines the forces of rising talents with established artists. The 23-day festival features new works by some of the country’s most innovative playwrights and local directors, designers, and actors. It offers three full-length plays, 18 ten-minute plays in groups of six that reflect the themes in each of the full-length plays, and three of what the producers call Artistic Blind Dates in which nine artists collaborate for six months to create original work. There is also a one-night only talent show.

'Frosty: A Chilly Tragedy with Sexy Bits.' Photo courtesy of Source Festival.
‘Frosty: A Chilly Tragedy with Sexy Bits.’ Photo courtesy of Source Festival.

Please check out the Festival’s schedule to see what appeals to you but I do recommend you consider In the Midst and the smorgasbord of stories it offers. With just ten minutes to tell their stories, the best playwrights in the collection make every word count and the talented directors make every action count…every move, every expression, every inflection. There are some wonderful performances and it is a pleasure to see several of the actors in multiple roles throughout the evening.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission.

2013 Source Festival plays through June 30, 2013, at Source – 1835 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online or call  (866) 811-4111.