Review: The 2016 One-Act Festival Performed by The Montgomery Playhouse on 8/20/16 at Silver Spring Stage

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This weekend two theater companies, Silver Spring Stage and The Montgomery County Playhouse, collaborated to present the 2016 One-Act Festival. This weekend, The Montgomery Playhouse performed their One Act Plays at Silver Spring Stage.

Cole Greenberg and Z. Jones in ‘Marriage Suite.’ Photo by David Jones
Cole Greenberg and Z. Jones in ‘Marriage Suite.’ Photo by David Jones

The first play, Marriage Suite, was comprised of a talented young cast. Playwright Daria Kerschenbaum is still a student at Thomas S. Wootton High School and was the winner of the Center Stage Young Playwrights Festival. This is the new play’s premiere.

The play deals with marriage and procreation after the apocalypse. A young couple is forced into marriage because they are deemed unaffected by radiation. If they can’t bond and produce offspring, there may be severe consequences.

It is obvious from the start that this is scarier than a blind date, and the play successfully displays the awkwardness of a first encounter with a stranger, something comparable to Internet Dating, but under the shadow of Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ in 1984. The plot was, at times, too vague, and it was difficult trying to figure out what was happening. Having more of the backstory may have made me feel more for the characters. The metaphors, however, were very clear throughout.

Cole Greenberg, who is a Junior at Montgomery Blair High School, played the very conflicted young man, and captured his inner torment. Z. Jones played Brynne, the new “wife,” who is more comfortable studying her college physics than giving up her virginity to this stranger. Jones had a tremendous amount of stage presence. Their discomfort with each other really came through.

David Dossey directed and tapped well into the high-energy of his young performers.

Stephanie Pounds and John Van Eck in ‘Virtual Reality.’ Photo by David Jones.
Stephanie Pounds and John Van Eck in ‘Virtual Reality.’ Photo by David Jones.

The second play, an absurdist comedy called Virtual Reality, was written by actor Alan Arkin. It opened as part of a trilogy Off-Broadway in 1998, and reminded me of plays by Beckett and Ionesco.

In this two-character play, directed by Bruce Hirsch, DeRecha (John Van Eck) is in charge of a warehouse. Lefty (Stephanie D. Pounds) enters to take a job that she has no idea what it entails or what is coming in the crates that are being delivered. DeRecha suggests a dry-run rehearsal of opening the crates. Lefty mimes various imaginary items as she unpacks the crates. Sometimes, the action is very funny and then it turns very scary. We know this is all charades, but like some virtual reality games, we don’t always know what is real and what is imaginary.

We were told before the show that the role of DeRecha had to be recast after rehearsals were long underway. John Van Eck stepped in with one week to go, and at this performance – with script in hand – brilliantly captured the confused supervisor who tries to keep his authority – while being totally clueless about what is happening. With his convincing British accent Van Eck was reminiscent of Ricky Gervais, the English comedian.

Stephanie D. Pounds is a recent graduate of Howard University with a B.F.A. Her high-energy kept the action going with just the right amount of intensity.

Melanie Lawrence, Courtney James, Corrie Bolcik, and McKenna G. Kelly in ‘10,000 Cigarettes.’ Photo by David Jones.
Melanie Lawrence, Courtney James, Corrie Bolcik, and McKenna G. Kelly in ‘10,000 Cigarettes.’ Photo by David Jones.

10,000 Cigarettes, by Australian playwright Alex Broun, ended the program. In this 10-minute drama, four women tell us why they like smoking- the pleasures, the social part, the glamour, and more…

The four actresses in the tight ensemble were Corrie Bolcik, McKenna G. Kelly, Melanie A. Lawrence, and Courtney James who all play Gloria as they puff their cancer sticks (and in this case – e-cigarettes). The four worked very well together and kept the audience focused without much physical action. Jen Katz (and her Assistant Jennifer Dorsey) does a stellar job in her directorial debut.

Lighting was capably designed by Jim Robertson. David Jones produced and stage-managed this weekend’s performances.

Everyone in The One Act Festival should be applauded. Whether you came this weekend or not, try to go to one of next weekend’s performances.

Running Time: Two hours, with an intermission.

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The 2016 One Act Festival continues next weekend on August 26-28, 2016, at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in The Woodmoor Shopping Center, in  Silver Spring, MD 20901. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 593-6036, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.

LINKS:
The Montgomery Playhouse website.

The Silver Spring Stage website.