BWW Reviews: Theatre Artists Studio Presents NEW SUMMER SHORTS

The play's the thing in Theatre Artists Studio's annual festival of short works written and directed my members of the co-op. At ten minutes a pop, each of the eight productions in this year's showcase catches the audience's conscience, at one level or another. As mirrors of human foibles and affects, their themes resonate with the familiarity of an old mistake, eliciting a knowing smile or a reluctant frown.

Until You're Not, written by Susan Sindelar and directed by Mary Robinson, centers on two friends parsing a letter from an ex, whose redeeming qualities, if any, are subject to debate. A surprise intervention from an unexpected place turns the conversation upside down and generates some good laughs and happy bonding. There's something to be said for the power of sisterhood, yaya or otherwise!

The Storm, written by Alan Austin and directed by Barbara Acker, blows in another but not unrelated direction. Deception is toxic in this triangulation of characters who suffer their wounds in cries of desperation and want more out of life and relationship than what they have.

Richard Warren's Power Play, directed by Martha Welty, centers on deception of a different sort. With a keen eye for exposing hybris and inauthenticity, Mr. Warren's clever portrait of a self-possessed celebrity may remind us of politicians who regularly gladhand a public they really don't like. In this case, movie star Kit Connor has a hissy fit when he is asked to receive a $5000 contribution to a charity for kids. His petulance about the inconvenience of the photo shoot withers, however, when he discovers who else supports the charity. He dons a mask that a doting and unknowing public buy into ~ hook, line, and sinker.

Act One ends with a hoot (or, perhaps, more accurately, a howl), written by Richard Hardt and directed by Steve Fajardo. Some of My Best Friends is a far cry from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner but it sure as shooting has a similar point to make and it takes perfect aim at the funny bone. Mom and Dad are awaiting the arrival of their daughter with her boyfriend. Will they approve? Sorry, it just wouldn't be right to say more ~ no spoilers here! Just remember that you can't tell a book by its cover!

Post intermission, the second set of shorts opens with Debra Rich Gettleman's Flora and Fauna, a witty send-up of a gatekeeper's arrogance. In the case of this play, directed by Richard Hardt, entry to the eden of a botanical garden relies on the wiles of visitors who can manoeuver around the arrogant tyrant of the turnstile, for whom an inch of responsiblity turns into a mile of arbitrary authority. It's a fine metaphor for the abuse of power we all see in many a venue.

Ms. Gettleman is the co-author with Aaron Seever of Latrodectus. Directed by Amanda Melby, this a delightful teaser about an avid pest control guy and a prospective client. It cues up the titillating question as to what is the difference between seduction and sales. By the way, I've learned since and it may be helpful to know that latrodectus is the Latin for the widow spider whose venomous bite can be debilitating but not necessarily fatal!

Pick A Leaf, written by Kathleen Buckstaff and directed by Mary Clare Coleman, is political theater in its most sensitive and compelling form ~ a call to action to decry the abuses of girls as voiced by two women of different cultures, experiences, and pains. They remind us that the telling of their stories is a source of strength.

Fittingly, the final piece is The Storytellers, a joyful homage to actors. Directed by Judy Rollings, Ms. Sindelar's second entry is a rollicking road trip into the angst and excitement that comes with treading the boards. As long as the audience doesn't have the script, actors will dwell in the inevitable moments of what if and blocking hell and will punt when they need to.

Theatre Artists Studio has set the table for a healthy, satisfying, and inspiring feast of plays. Its 2015 New Summer Shorts runs through June 28th.

Photo credit to Bill Phillips ~ Susan Sindelar as Annie in Pick A Leaf

Related Articles View More Phoenix Stories   Shows

From This Author Herbert Paine