BWW Review: NINE WINNING ONE-ACTS Play at Group rep

Nine Winning One-Acts/by various new American Playwrights/directed by multiple Group Repertory directors/produced by Kevin Dobson & Troy Whitaker/Group rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, NoHo/Saturdays at 2 pm/Sundays at 7 pm through August 7

Evenings of short one-acts are the rage at Equity-waiver theatres! In the black box theatre upstairs at Group rep you you are invited to come see Nine Winning One-Acts, plays that stretch a mere ten-fifteen minutes in length. The mini plays were chosen from over 160 entries from across the United States and written by various unknown playwrights. The evening is divided into two acts with five plays comprising Act One and four in Act Two. There is no single theme running through them, so if I had to describe the conflicts ...why ... life, death, dating, marriage, love, gay relationships, infidelity, euthanasia...and even cat abuse, though mild, thrown into the fray. The evening is Group rep's way of utilizing more company actors and directors, many of whom work less on the theatre mainstage, and for the most part, it's pleasantly stimulating and entertaining fare.

My favorite in Act One is called Dora's Dynamic Dates (pictured above) by Marjorie Bicknell of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Two actors Patrick Burke and Roslyn Cohn, under Stan Mazin's fluid and very active staging, portray candidates in the dating pool who have come together in one room with the hope of meeting the person of their dreams. Lareen Faye provides the delightfully rambunctious voice of Dora, and the two actors make delicious choices in essaying two awkward yet enthusiastic losers. The glitch here is that these two people are the only ones who have shown up, but still must follow the usual procedure and move quickly from chair to chair in an attempt to meet every potential date, so the whole concept is not only fun to watch but terribly human, as the two come close to losing it at very twist and turn. It's difficult to write a 10-minute play that comes off above and beyond a sketch. And that's fine, as long as it entertains to the max, and Ms. Bicknell carries it off with panache, as do the director and actors.

On a more serious note, February to August by Neil Ellis Orts of Houston, Texas deals with a dying woman as she has lost track of time. The action of the play involves a visit from her nephew. Directed with much care by Katelyn Ann Clark, Pascale Gigon gives a simple yet engaging performance as the aunt, who learns a lesson about the value of time. Devix Szell ably plays the nephew. Hard to squeeze deep emotions into a mini play but somehow playwright Orts and Miss Gigon manage to rivet us and make us appreciate every precious moment that we have left. Gigon alternates the role on specific dates with Colette Rosario.

In Act Two I found A Long Time Coming by Jody McColman of Portland, Maine absorbing and emotionally satisfying. Pascale Gigon, once more, is a real find as a woman recounting memories of a female friend from her youth, who has recently passed away. There was a special bond between them, and despite life's changes, that bond has grown stronger with the passage of time. Lauren Peterson plays the deceased friend, and director Richard Alan Woody cautiously gives her very little movement. Gigon is seated with an album in her lap, and Peterson moves slowly behind from one side of the chair to the other as the memories take shape. Lovely work and quite moving! Again Rosario and Gigon share this role.

For its sheer comedic touches, I also thoroughly enjoyed Catatonic by Nedra Pezold Roberts of Atlanta Georgia. Directed skillfully by Larry Margo, Patrick Burke, Patrick Skelton and Chris Sloan have a field day as three gay friends dealing with a pet cat named Sophie Tucker. Burke and Skelton play lovers who have split up, leaving the cat with Sloan who is forced to clean up their messes in more ways than one. It's fun stuff!

Kudos as well to actors Alyson York, John William Young, Stephanie Colet, Alana Kerr Collins, Troy Whitaker, who stepped in (for Kevin Logie) to play an absurd Alexander the Great, Cynthia Bryant, Anny, Michele Bernath, Laureen Faye, Paul Cady, and Ceirra Burton for their fine work in the other five playlets.

The next time around it might be a good idea to use less furniture onstage, so that changes in between each play are kept to a minimum. With this kind of presentation, best to take the cue from Dora's Dynamic Dates and move it along fast, fast, fast!

Go and support GRT! Nine Winning One-Acts aren't the best I've seen but they will put a smile on your face or make you reflect as the case may be.

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From This Author Don Grigware