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BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Presents NEW SUMMER SHORTS

BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Presents NEW SUMMER SHORTS

Following a Season of impressive and refreshing productions ~ Neil Simon's ROSE AND WALSH, David Lindsay-Abaire's RABBIT HOLE, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's INHERIT THE WIND, Cindy Lou Johnson's BRILLIANT TRACES, Hal Corley's PAS D'ACTION, and A.R. Gurney's LOVE AND MONEY ~ Theatre Artists Studio pivots its focus to NEW SUMMER SHORTS, the annual festival of short plays authored and performed by its community of artists.

For the last five years, I've looked forward to this opportunity to showcase the imagination and talents of The Studio's band of performing artists. The ten-minute creations offer entertaining and usually provocative insights into the human condition. This year's eight selections ~ an amalgam of wit, satire, and drama ~ do not disappoint.

It may be axiomatic that great truths can be revealed in the span of one to ten minutes as easily and perhaps more compellingly than in two to three hours. In the course of ninety minutes, Studio artists prove the point.

For example, how do we begin to comprehend the trauma of violence? In Kirt Shineman's 42 SECONDS, Judy Lebeau, Trevor Penzone, and Ben Rojek deliver stark and riveting portrayals of three survivors of a mass shooting who return to the scene of the crime. They relive the horror of the incident in excruciating detail. There is catharsis here, but, more importantly, there is, in the sharing of the experience, a bonding of souls that is, at its core, an affirmation of life.

What tales are to be told in our chromosomes is the stuff of popularized DNA testing kits like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and The National Geographic Geno 2.0. The search for genetic roots ~ and the desire to discover diversity in one's background ~ can have unintended consequences as is the case in ASHKENAZI, Debra Rich Gettleman's hilarious send-up about two friends sharing the findings of their tests. Judith Eisenberg and Larah Pawlowski bring perfect chemistry to their roles as one character fumes over the one-dimensionality of her genetic history and the other humors her.

Many writers will say that, once pen is put to page, the characters take over. No doubt, there exists an invisible battle between the author and her muse as to whose dictates and inspiration will drive a story. As Al Benneian's DON'T PUT THOSE WORDS IN MY MOUTH! opens, Sasha Wordlaw reflects the consternation that emanates from this struggle. Wordlaw ~ animated and expressive ~ is wonderful in portraying the frustration of writer's-block. Julie Lee is great as the apparition of the character who has a mind and will of her own...and who will not be deterred from making her impression.

At the other end of playwriting is the process of play selection. In SELECTION, Kirt Shineman's other offering, this one comical, Susan Sindelar, Anne Sanford and Julie Lee are negotiating which plays will be featured in their theatre's season. Sindelar is particularly emphatic as she advocates relentlessly on behalf of one play. The other two begin to detect a conflict of interest, and, therein, lies the opportunity for some smart deal-making. The three actresses bring a marvelous chemistry to their performances.

In THE BROCK BATTLE SHOW by Joe Bardin, an interview on sports talk radio goes awry when the jock guest (Jason Ketner) crumbles into pitiful self-reflection while the host (Ben Rojek) sits aghast, seeking to regain control of his program.

Tim Ashby's SHIFTS is an odd little piece about apparent family dysfunction involving a dad (Dan Peitzmeyer) who has relocated to the living room couch for a good night's sleep, a daughter (Larah Pawlowksi) who is bearing child but reluctant to bare the fact, and the mother (Dolores D'Amore Goldsmith) who descends upon both in the wee hours of the day.

Les Leiter's A TOKEN OF APPRECIATION is a sweet piece of work featuring the fine performances of George Cohen as a man whose final expression of affection for his dear friend Manny (Dan Peitzmeyer) is deemed a bit unconventional and Marcia Weinberg who castigates him for what he has done ~ that is, placing a cigar in the coffin of the deceased.

Romance thrives in THE LOVERS. Andrew Marvell's metaphysical poem, To His Coy Mistress, awakens a young student (Trevor Penzone) to the beauty that radiates from a woman (Lindsay Gagnon) he meets on a subway train. The two actors take an awkward encounter to new heights that consummate their evolving attraction with a kiss. As they intertwine, their bodies are reminiscent of The Kiss etched in stone by Rodin ~ a smart effect imagined by playwright and co-directors Alan and Marney Austin.

Very fine work on all accounts. Now, we must wait a year before we can see what new creations the collective produces.

NEW SUMMER SHORTS runs through June 23rd at The Studio in Scottsdale.

Photo credit to Mark Gluckman ~ L to R: Susan Sindelar, Anne Sanford

Theatre Artists Studio ~ ~ 602-765-0120 ~ 12406 N. Paradise Village Parkway East, Scottsdale, AZ

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