BWW Reviews: BEST OF: 2.0 at City Theater Company
City Theater Company begins the year with "a comic showcase of favorite 10-Minute Plays we've performed throughout our illustrious history." They have selected eight comedic skits from their 20-year history to create an interesting pastiche of short, mostly comedic presentations, some of them with barbs.
The cast of each presentation varied from two to the complete ensemble; indeed, the final play used many of the group in two or three roles. The ensemble cast for CTC's Best Of: 2.0 includes Melissa Bernard, Jim Burns, Dave Duszak, Dylan Geringer, Todd Holtsberry, Lew Indellini, James Kassees, Mary Catherine Kelley, Kerry Kristine McElrone, Kevin Regan, and George Tietze, under the direction of Michael Gray.
"Crisis Management" by Deanna Riley provides a glimpse of a dysfunctional management meeting of a probably troubled corporation. "Hypothermia (aka FITS)" by Alex Dremann pits two Arctic pipeline workers against each other and their unforgiving environment. In "Voodoo Barbie," the dysfunction is familial, though the daughter may have found a way to manage her discordant parents. "Tasting Menu" by Drury Pifer offers a more cultured solution to a strained relationship.
"Crash Positions" by Jon Dorf explores empowerment in a crisis. "Sex Therapy" by Drury Pifer plays with identity and fetishes and Matt Casarino's "Green Eggs and Mamet" provides a typically Mametian confrontation within the constraints of Seussian couplets. "Embed with You" by George Tietze is the longest, most involved piece, using the model of international conflict to portray the development of a sexual relationship, complete with up-close and personal reportage.
In such brief presentations, it is difficult to get more than a glimpse of actors' performances of specific or even similar characters. One performer seemed to me to stand out from the crowd. I suspect that director Michael Gray may have felt the same way, since he chose to use Dylan Geringer in four of the eight plays. In "Voodoo Barbie," her character, "Maggie," is a solo act for almost half of the short play, with only Barbie (and friends) to assist her portrayal of a pre-teen developing unique coping skills, and she was definitely "all in" as the objective in "Embed with You".
Despite the presence of a couple of young people at the opening night performance, I would not recommend "Best Of: 2.0" for a young audience. I recently attended a performance of "August: Osage County" and I believe that the "f-word" was used more freely in "Best Of" than in "Osage County". This powerful word can be used effectively to express strong feeling but it loses its value in humor rather quickly. Its (to me) over-use in "Best Of" gave the show an immature feel which was exacerbated by the character names used in "Embed with You".
That said, there was no doubt in my mind that City Theater Company possesses a wealth of talent and creativity. They used their small thrust stage very effectively, made some very clever transitions between performances, and extended their performance space into the audience space adroitly. The size and enthusiasm of the opening night audience also indicate that CTC enjoys an eager following. I look forward to seeing their presentation of a full-length play.
"Best Of: 2.0" continues in the Black Box space at OperaDelaware Studios on S. Poplar Street in Wilmington DE on February 7 & 8, 2014. Runtime: about 100 minutes. Tickets can be purchased online at http://city-theater.org/get-involved/#buy-tickets.