We travel to seek the unknown, and we undertake quests to find or achieve something of life-altering importance. The characters in Quests are seeking mementos of the past, self-understanding, complete transformations and a recipe for cornbread. Quests, comprised of six separate 10-minute plays, is part of the Source Festival at Source Theatre. Playwrights from across the country submit their work, and the winning selections are produced as part of the annual Source Festival. This is the 8th annual Source Festival, and it is a wonderful opportunity to experience new theatrical works.
“A pilgrimage comes from within” Peter declares in the opening play, Phillip Kalpan’s Local Pilgrimage. Peter (Henry Lague) is an Abraham Lincoln aficionado, but he cannot afford the trip to Lincoln’s childhood home. Instead, he has decided to make the journey to a nearby apartment and treat it as Lincoln’s home. Mary (Beth Amann), the apartment’s inhabitant, is a sardonic and curt foil to the earnest and hopeful Peter. Peter must convince Mary to let him treat her apartment as Lincoln’s home. The ensuing conversation and conclusions are both humorous and moving. Lague gave an impressive performance as an impassioned young man determined to forge a connection with his long-deceased idol. Director Maryam Foye artfully conveys the story of two random individuals who share a brief but profound understanding. The intimate black box allows the audience to sit inches from the performers and feel as though they are absorbed into Mary’s apartment and, thus, Peter’s pilgrimage.
A chorus of singers in old-fashioned circus garb introduce the second play, Elizabeth Archer’s Old Gray Devil. They sing of “Murderous Mary,” her victim and Mary’s subsequent trial and execution. As they leave, the scene changes to a gravesite. Several circus performers are burying the aforementioned Mary. Director Mark Kamie stages an impressive amount of action on a small set—particularly filling a grave with actual shovels and dirt. The characters discuss the murder, the hanging and their next stop on the circus tour. During their discussion, two of the characters grapple with how they failed Mary. Emmaline Sparks (Sara Dabney Tisdale) and Charles Sparks (Mark Ludwick) each have a powerful moment when dealing with their grief and devotion to the fallen Mary.
An eager young woman decides to attend a session with a life coach in After Unlocking the Universe. Willow (Teresa Catherine) eagerly embraces the lessons of her life coach Judith (Amie Cazel). Willow takes her newfound lessons home to her boyfriend Bernard (Jack Novak) and promptly leaves her relationship and her career for a more fulfilling path. Novak and Cazel play several characters in this fast-paced tale of one woman’s transformation. Director Orion Jones stages various settings in a minimal space: bus, library, apartment, park and others. Playwright Susan Goodell showcases the transformative power of attitude changes, but she allows Willow a full and gratifying picaresque discovery.
Reality and the mystical meet in The Reluctant Genie of Niamey. Simon (Jack Novak) locates a genie (Rasik Ohal) who had once granted him three wishes. Simon blames the genie for granting him immortality. Director Orion Jones stages an intriguing dream-like sequence when Simon speaks of his lost love and she appears drifting across the stage. Playwright Marine Gassier explores the idea of satisfaction. Can one who is immortal ever be satisfied in a life that will never end?
The Wild Ones presents a scene that seems both fresh and familiar. Playwright Molly Hagan has written the story of a couple recounting a tale they have told many times. It is the tale of the wife’s soul-searching after an encounter with a Wood Thrush. Meg (Elizabeth Dutton) and Joe (Mark Ludwick) are any talkative, self-confessing married couple until they reveal that they have decided to become Wood Thrushes. They reveal more about this collaboration and departure from their normal lives. Dutton and Ludwick gave an outstanding performance; they were every inch the troubled couple embarking on a new venture with hopes of redemption. The set is simple and universal: Joe and Meg sit side-by side in chairs facing the audience. They are alone, except for each other and their shared journey. Director Mark Kamie succeeds in conveying the simplicity and power of Hagan’s play.
“The sweet version of history” is at the center of the final play, Corn Bread with Raisins and Almonds. Playwright Benjamin Marshall tells a compact and complicated story of a young woman searching for a link to her deceased boyfriend. Lauren (Beth Amman) is mourning Jake (Henry Lague), and she hopes to connect with Jake again by baking his favorite food: corn bread with raisins and almonds. Lauren visits Jake’s mother Laura (Emily Morrison), asking for a copy of the old family recipe. In the ensuing journey, Lauren discovers family secrets. Aimes (Keith Irby) is the guardian of the recipe, and he has every reason to distrust Jake’s family and, by extension, Lauren. This was a strong ensemble performance. Director Maryam Foye staged a tender and loving portrait of individuals learning to come to terms with their respective tragedies.
Each play is unique, and audience members will find something inspiring or meaningful in these miniature portraits of yearning. Every quest may speak differently to the audience, but there is universal compassion and longing throughout these stories.
Running Time: One hour and fifteen minutes, with a ten-minute intermission.
The Playwright’s Playground by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – An Interview with Playwright A.K. Forbes on Her Play: ‘Collateral Damage and Other Cosmic Consequences.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – An Interview With CJ Ehrlich on Her Play ‘Picnic on the Lake.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – An Interview with Playwright Susan Goodell on Her Play: ‘After Unlocking the Universe.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Elizabeth Archer on Her Play: ‘Old Gray Devil.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Molly Hagan on Her Play: ‘The Wild Ones’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Marine Gassier on Her Play: ‘The Reluctant Genie of Niamey.
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Erin Bregman on Her Play: ‘A Bid to Save the World’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Mariah MacCarthy on Her Play: ‘Painted.’