BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Present Its Annual Festival Of NEW SUMMER SHORTS
At the end of every Season, the members of the creative collective known as Theatre Artists Studio put their muses to work and author, produce, direct, and act in a series of playlets.
This year's installment of NEW SUMMER SHORTS, the company's 11th, includes a mix of eight 10-15 minute plays, each of which has something to satisfy one's theatrical palate. Some amusing, some inspiring, some provocative, some whimsical ~ all together, a satisfying potpourri.
Contemplation of one's place in time and space is at the heart of Joe Bardin's Look Up and Michael Fleck's Sun (When You Least Expect It). In Bardin's work, Noah Clark delivers a compelling performance as Terrence, an anxious teenager burdened by the apparent trifles that cause discord in his dysfunctional family. Gazing at the expansive universe, he seeks perspective and perhaps some solace as to what are matters of importance and what are not. For Michael Fleck's Daniel, life has happened and perspective is hard to come by. He has suffered the wounds of lost opportunities and a broken marriage. It is the predictability of the sun's daily rising that is the antidote to suicide and that gives him the will to hope for hope, the possibility of rediscovering beauty in life. Terrence and Daniel occupy spots at polar ends of life's continuum.
Debra Rich Gettleman is a keen observer of the human condition and social habits. Rose Colored Spectacles is her contribution to the festival. Karen Burns lights a fire to the playwright's script as Rose, who has a late night epiphany that plants seeds of doubts about her chronic optimism. Michael Fleck, whose writing and acting is consistently inspired, is asleep at the wheel here as the husband who manages to snore and sleep through Rose's entire riff. That's okay because Burns is hilarious, fretting over the why and wherefore of such matters as a sale for in vitro fertilization.
Susan Sindelar, Carol Gibson, and Sarah Houghtelin Koerner take their turn at burning up the stage in Micki Shelton's offbeat Evolution Fast Track. As the scene opens to the overture to Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra (otherwise known as the Theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey), the zany trio of cavewomen are discovering fire. Their minds kick into higher gear, and it's only a matter of moments before they are erupting with new realizations, kindling such concepts as abandonment and mother-blaming and then supplanting them with proclamations of empowerment. Ultimately, the cavewomen of yesterday are the feminists of today, and it takes only a minor twist of logic to figure out who is to blame for the problems of the world.
A more somber tone prevails in Kirt Shineman's Lost and Found as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan (Jason Isaak) carries the weight of the troubles he's seen on his shoulders and in his mind. Coming home is no easy endeavor as he copes with realities of atrocities committed in his country's name. The pleas of his father (Bill Straus) and the perspective of a young girl (Isabelle Ali) can only go so far in achieving redemption.
Michael Fleck's second offering in the festival has an unusually different angle from Sun. In Road Warriors, things are not as they seem as two colleagues, Francine (Amy Garland) and Lenora (Carol Gibson) settle into an Omaha hotel in preparation for another assignment. Bosom buddies they may be, but all is not fair in love and business war. Garland and Gibson are an ideal match of two distinctly different personality types, one the high achiever, the other an underperformer. A clever surprise twist will leave you wanting more from Fleck's incisive imagination.
Silliness come wrapped in two volleys. Marney and Alan Austin's The Phoenix Coffin Club features Tom Koelbel as The Manager of a fully equipped do-it-yourself coffin-making club. A novel enterprise, no doubt! His routine is disrupted when a suspicious "person" enters the premises and it's necessary to call the cops. David Heap and Ann Vogel help to fuel the chuckles of this contretemps. Andrea Markowitz takes a stab at political satire in The Emperor's New Nose. Jason Isaak plays a frantic successor to the throne, uncertain of his own authority. On the advice of his Fool (Dolores D'Amore Goldsmith), he rushes to establish his legitimacy by growing the size of his nose. Patti Hurtado and David Heap round out the cast.
NEW SUMMER SHORTS runs through June 25th at Theatre Artists Studio in Phoenix.
Photo credit to Theatre Artists Studio