BWW Review: The Tarpon Arts One Act Plays Festival at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center
Watching a One Act Play festival is akin to eating the Appetizer Sampler at Applebee's. If you don't like the chicken wanton tacos, then you can nosh on the boneless wings. If the mozzarella sticks aren't your menu item du jour, then there's always the sriracha shrimp to make you happy. There's something for everyone. And the same theory works with a One Act play festival: If one of the short play selections doesn't appeal to you, then it's over quickly enough, and you can find another soon after that may be more to your liking.
Producer/actor Rick Kastel certainly knows how to put these festivals together, and he has guided the Tarpon Arts One Act Plays Festival, which ran June 8-11, with aplomb. An initial 170 scripts were narrowed down to a mere ten, and after months of rehearsal, audiences were finally able to see the selected plays. Even though the One Acts themselves were hit or miss, the audience was constantly entertained. The rear screen projections worked wonders, and the whole thing flowed quite nicely. Special mention must be made of the consistent bad puns of the night's emcee, John Sallustio.
Without further ado, here are the ten plays featured in this year's Tarpon Arts One Act Plays Festival, in the order of how they were presented. You'll find some hits, some misses, but all with something to offer...
One Act #1: THE CONFESSION. Written and directed by John Sallustio. This had a winning premise as well as winning performances from its two actors--Rick Kastel as an understanding Priest and young Ian Clark as Timmy, the frightened child who has to confess his sins (he reminds me of a youthful Crispin Glover and has tons of potential). It was all set up wonderfully, and ended with an abrupt, big laugh, and that was it. I wish it had been longer and had more to say, because these two actors were absolutely owning it. As it stands, THE CONFESSION comes across more like a truncated sketch than a One Act play.
One Act #2: AFFAIR ON THE 74th. Written by Jim Kitchens; directed by Suzi Walia. This is a standard story that we've seen over and over again. Two people are stuck in an elevator; it's a classic improvisation set-up, and has been seen in several TV shows from All in the Family to Saved by the Bell. And we get that these two individuals are stranded in their own metaphorical boxes--trapped in their own lot in life, their own personal stuck elevators--as well. The acting is fine enough from LaBree Hans as Laura and Abi Bais as John, but little details--like John's sharp suit that Laura keeps alluding to--are missing (what sharp suit?). The ending moment was perfect, but it took a long time to get there.
One Act #3: WARMING UP. Written by Andrea Fleck Clardy; directed by Van Blvd Read. This one seemed like an "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode, with hints of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. There are moments to remember, including an animated fireplace and a ballsy, double entendre line-reading of the word "small-minded," with a long pause after "small." But it didn't resonate as it should, despite valiant efforts of the two actors (Alex Julliano and Celina Anne Bowman).
One Act #4: BENNY AND BORIS. Written by Morely Shulman; directed by Mary Kay Cyrus. Imagine The Zoo Story mixed with I'm Not Rappaport and The Gin Game. Two old men on a park bench, talking, just talking. There's a sweetness here, and director Cyrus does the most with the endearing older actors, Tom Bogash and Mike Jones. But again, it doesn't really go anywhere that we didn't already predict; still, it has heart, and that makes up for a lot. (In his bio, actor Tom Bogash mentions that he once chauffeured Frank Sinatra; now, I want to see a One Act about that!)
One Act #5: THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE. Written and directed by Mike Cote. Although fun to watch, this old-fashioned farce plays like an SNL skit that winds up airing at 12:53 a.m. Listening in with a stethoscope, a patient (Jeff Dow) mishears the dinner plans of his doctor and nurse (Jason Hoolihan and Susan Dearden) and thinks they're going to do awful things to him. Although Mr. Dow comes across as somewhat child-like, it would have worked even better with a kid in the role and a mother that doesn't believe him. That said, Kimen Mitchell is very strong as Mrs. Smith; just don't get her mad at you, especially with a bruise-inducing purse in her hands.
One Act #6: ALMOST CONNECT. Written by Thomas L. Pierce; directed by Linda Copperfield. Here it is, one of the strongest One Acts of the bunch. Two older strangers--a man (Jeff Dow) and a woman (Irma Wehle)--sit at the same table in a coffee house, and their two younger alter egos--played exceptionally by David Stepakoff and Graceanna Aktar--try futilely to connect the older people and lead them into a relationship. It's quite entertaining and well done, and ends on just the right note, if not a happy one. Strong work all around.
One Act #7: BOOBS. Written by Mureen Paraventi; directed by Tiffany Sneden. This was an audience favorite with some interesting insights, but anyone who's read Philip Roth's novella, The Breast, has seen it all done better before. But the two actresses (Lauren Burke as Boob 1 and Jean Sheridan as Boob 2) are truly committed as the titular mammaries.
One Act #8: QUEEN ANNE. Written by Steve Shade; directed by Judy Landis. Another nominee for the best One Act of the lot. The dialogue, the deeper meanings, the fine acting (by Michael Juliano and Nathan Attard) all come together here in a simple story of a man interested in purchasing a $1,465.00 Queen Ann table in an antique store. But there's more here than meets the eye, including a twist or two. QUEEN ANNE came across as a real One Act, a mini-play, not just a throwaway skit like some of the others. A fine job by all.
One Act #9: SMALL TALK. Written by David MacGregor; directed by Jean Sheridan. This one had some very funny moments in a story about a woman who just cannot engage in the simple act of "small talk," even when given the proper subject matter ("weather; TV shows; the mating habits of celebrities; and the price of gas...") The acting is fine by Caitlin Ostrowski, David Stepakoff and Tiffany Sneden, but my favorite is Alejandro M. Collado, who delivers a strong, albeit brief performance as a pizza delivery guy.
One Act #10: BENNY AND THE BUMBLERS. Written and directed by Deb Bostock-Kelley. Fascinating story, well-written by Kelley and well performed by the three actors (Alicia Spiegel, Rokki James and Rick Kastel). There's a lot of comings and goings, and it goes on a bit too long, but it's also so much fun getting there. Kelley ingeniously utilizes the rear screen projections to get in one last laugh at the very end. A great note to end a fun evening on...
The Tarpon Arts One Act Plays Festival was a blast for those involved, and here's looking forward to the next one. Perhaps you will want to join in and act in one of the shows, or better yet, get to writing a short play and submitting it. This is a perfect way to get your work out there. Who knows, maybe I'll be writing about you and your work next year....