The West Arundel Creative Arts building strikes one as a gutsy little place, as it looks sort of abandoned, the signage is not the easiest to see and the inside spaces are tight. But they are willing to take artistic chances and are doing a very nice job with it. With a decidedly casual flair in the presentation, particularly between the plays, the space invites the audience to let go of rigid theatre preconceptions and just enjoy the creativeness and gallantry of people making some pretty good theatre.
…some good laughs, some skewed viewpoints, and some talent in an unexpected place.
“Atypical Perspectives” is a mélange of six one-act plays of varying length written by Jeff Dunne. They range from an insane Stone Age board meeting (“Brighter than Others,” and the meeting is complete with “I so move” and “Seconded!”) that also explores how concepts are discovered and possibly named (how some sounds come to represent an object or concept, such as star or blue) to an eerie takeover of a man’s life by his smart home assistant, Alexa, (a deeply unsettling Two Point Oh).
Other plays involve an on-the-job interview for Death (The New Death)—the applicant for that job is Cheese (hey, she brings snacks, which is more than Death does), who bumbles and fumbles her way toward getting a woman to accept her death and come peacefully, all the while being graded by a silent angel.
“The Trial” is a battle of wits between an accused witch and a tribunal of men in black cloaks and pointy hoods (guess who wins?); an interview between the devil and a journalist in a police station interrogation room (“The Devil Exclusive”); and a very funny interlude with people trying to order stereotypical Chinese dishes (“A Night at the Human Garden”), which at one point has a very plaintive and resigned older woman trying to downgrade her Triple Delight order to just a Single Delight, if that’s all that is available.
The plays range from around 10 minutes to 20 minutes and all are briskly directed by Sharon Preator, who also engages the audience in explaining the “magic of the theatre” as the cast and crew move the props and sets around between each play. She’s funny, rather loopy, and seemed like a natural fit to direct these off-kilter sequences.
The entire cast, all of whom play multiple roles, do very respectable work in creating these characters. It isn’t easy to go from grunting and speaking in very basic language to the smooth, more-than-human tones and vocabulary of an Alexa, for example. In a group of very good, and game, actors, Christine Hurst as Alexa was chilling in her controlled, icy take-over of a writer’s life; and Emily Bruun as Cheese. As Cheese applying for Death’s position, it was sort of like watching every Millenial’s nightmare come true, only funnier.
The cast included: Barbara Gasper (Mongum, Mary), Bob Gudauskas (Journalist, Hammond), Christine Hurst (Alexa, Arnold), Don Patterson (Gronk, Elder Two), Emily Bruun (Walter, Cheese), Hayle Barry (Harrump, Wei), Imuetinyan Ugiagbe (Bruunhilde, Grunk), Joe Downs (Elder Three, Nathan), John O’Brien (Elder One), Lori Bruun (Uggums, Edna), Mervin Bierman (Elder One), Sam David (Margaret, The Devil), Shawn Fournier (Grub/Andy), Sonia Socha (Marie).
The theatre space is problematic in that there simply is no real backstage. While the staging between plays could be awkward, Preator simply face that head-on and invited the audience to be in on the struggle, in a sense. It was a surprisingly graceful way to handle the limitations of the space. The space itself seats 45-50, so it is an intimate evening.
As the playwright, Jeff Dunne has a skewed way of looking at things. Several of the plays were genuinely funny and short enough that the off-kilter at the center was punchy. “The Trial” was the most “normal” of the six, and the most heavy-handed. The four actors did a wonderful job (Barbara Gasper was formidable as the accused) but the dialogue overshadows the parallels he seemed to be trying to draw between the 1600s and now. But watching Gasper verbally joust these men to a froth was quite enjoyable.
The show is fun and inventive and made for an enjoyable evening out. And sometimes, that’s just what one needs—some good laughs, some skewed viewpoints, and some talent in an unexpected place.
Running Time: Not quite two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Adult language.
“Atypical Perspectives” runs from August 3-12, 2018 at the West Arundel Creative Arts, Hanover, MD. For more information, please click here.