BWW Reviews: Sam Bass Showcases Collection of Short Plays with REFRIED FLIMFLAMMERY
The words "a collection of original short plays" have a tendency to either excite the seasoned theatergoer or strikes fear in their hearts. Every brilliant work was once original, and therefore some original work can be brilliant. On the other hand, a night of original short plays can be like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Sam Bass Theatre's current offering, Refried Flimflammery is occasionally the former, but more often the later. There are some moments of brilliance, but most of the evening is uneven.
The show, produced through special arrangement with Austin-based Loaded Gun Theory, is comprised of five separate plays originally written for Loaded Gun Theory's annual Slapdish Flimflammery. Slapdish Flimflammery is a unique theatrical experience in which entire plays are written, rehearsed, and performed in 24 hours. While part of the excitement and entertainment for the audience of Slapdish is seeing whether or not theater artists can create an entire work in one day, that magic is gone when the plays are re-produced and re-staged. When each play receives three weeks of rehearsal time, the weaknesses in the text become widely apparent. I mean that with no disrespect to writers E.D. Harrelson and Trey Deason. Writing a play in less than a day is a daunting task, but some issues that would be overlooked during Slapdish, such as scenes that end abruptly or others which fill time with shtick like breaking the fourth wall, are glaringly obvious here.
In Sam Bass Theatre's restaging of the plays, there are some strengths and weaknesses. Kat Tait, who stars in three of the five plays, proves to be a strong and confident actress. She's particularly wonderful in the third play of the evening, Ode to a Boise Boy on the Landcaster Bridge. In it, she plays a fast-talking, sleazy suicide help line worker, a profession that takes on a whole new meaning through E.D. Harrelson's inspired wordplay. The play also has some of the best direction of the evening, courtesy of first time director, Kim Midkiff.
Unfortunately, the other plays aren't quite as memorable or effective. The show's opener, a revenge comedy titled Best Served Cold...And Then a Little Hot has all of the elements to be as much fun as Ode to a Boise Boy, including a performance from Kat Tait and another witty script by Harrelson. Sadly, it doesn't gel and falls flat, in part due to some blocking and pacing issues from novice director, Sara DeSoto. Similarly, the second play of the night, an alien abduction comedy titled A Whole New World, has a few missed opportunities. It features one of the best jokes of the night (ALIEN X: "On my planet, we f*** who we want and go about our day." THE ABDUCTEE: "Oh! You have Grindr, too?"), but the joke doesn't land, and it's questionable if the performers even understand the joke in the first place.
While there may be lots of fun to be had in seeing plays written in 24 hours, it seems that they're best seen at Slapdish in lieu of Sam Bass's revised productions. There are some meals that are never meant to be turned into left overs.
Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
REFRIED FLIMFLAMMERY plays the Sam Bass Theatre at 600 N. Lee St, Round Rock 78664, now thru May 24th. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm. For tickets and information, please visit www.sambasstheatre.org.