Silver Spring Stage is presenting its annual ‘One-Act Festival.’ I had the chance to view Weekend Two. Each weekend presents 4-5 one-act plays by a variety of playwrights and several directors and 3 producers (Alika Codispoti, Jen Katz, Rob Gorman).
A program of one-act plays is like a buffet. Some of the productions will be more interesting, meaningful or humorous than others. There will be those that provoke thought, educate or are emotionally wrenching. Others will make you laugh, fill you with suspense or just plain entertain you. Occasionally, there will be one or two that are not “up your alley”. SSS’s “2019 One-Act Festival” is a smorgasbord of theatrical genre. I guarantee, though, you will be able to “fill your plate” with enough selections to make this a worthwhile experience.
Silver Spring Stage picked five very different and intriguing plays for it’s second weekend. I know the third weekend will be equally worthwhile. It is a great way to end the summer.
The first play up was “Best Friends” by Diana Lee Woody. Surprisingly Woody, who is also a scientist, wrote this comedy about life in the hereafter. Three friends are separated by the death of one, Amanda. The other, two, via an Ouija Board, try to contact their dead friend, only to find her spirit is still present in her old place and very lonely. Emily F. Gouillart directed this lively piece, and as the three friends Morgan Booth (Genevieve), Jenny Oberholtzer (Molly) and Sunna Bee (Amanda) did a fine job recreating this very strong friendship that has no earthly boundaries.
Shalom Omo-Osagie directed the second offering, “Prisoner of Love” by Keith Whalen. In this plot a husband finds himself handcuffed, literally, to his couch by his wife, who believes in much of the psycho-babble she reads. In actuality, she is trying to help her husband understand his own self and better their relationship. The ending may have been a bit predictable, but Oma-Osagie kept the pace lively and the laughs coming. Credit for the humor goes in good part to the two actors, Adam Rosenthal as Hal and Rebecca Sheer as his wife, Sophie. Rosenthal’s Hal is understated and Sheer’s Sophie is often over the top, creating a wonderful contrast. (My only reservation is I am getting a little tired of ditzy wives and put-upon husbands. I would love to see a plot where the husband is the ditz and the wife the more realistic spouse.) However, the comedy does work.
The next play was a satire, “The Rockefeller Special,” by Ryan Stevens about the founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller comes back from the dead to tell us the real story of this robber baron. It was funny, and Jeff Mikoni certainly kept the manic pacing that this type of satire needs to keep it from being preachy. Andrew Quilpa was a wild and crazy (and funny) John. D. The supporting cast which included Melanie A. Lawrence (Historian), Hamza Elnaggar (1st Player), Whitney Richardson (2nd Player) and Olivia Smith-Elnaggar (3rd Player) all gave admirable and wonderfully acrobatic performances.
After Intermission the lights went up on “Miss Peddy and Grace” by William Ivor Fowkes. This was an interesting study of the two women. Miss Peddy, sharply portrayed by Meghan Williams Elkins, is a home care nurse for the elderly. We see her interviewing for various jobs as she reveals her not always pure motives toward her charges. Grace is a dotty old woman, or so it seems, who we can guess will be the next to be under Miss Peddy’s care. Grace Butler was hilariously and craftily played by Harlene Leahy. This play was full of surprises and showed great insight into the minds of senior citizens who are often wrongly stereotyped because of their outward appearances. The direction by Pauline Griller-Mitchell was visually interesting and helped to create the tension of the plot that was very gripping.
“The Mysterious Life, and Even More Mysterious Death, of That Guy Who Lived Below Max and Beth” was the final play. This farce was written by Mark Staufenberg and directed by Brad Tehaan. The play involves a couple Beth, played by McKenna Kelly and Max, played by Omar LaTiri. Their neighbor from the floor below has died in what appears to be a murder. Beth wants to know what happened and sneaks down the fire escape to spy on the police investigating the crime scene. Without revealing too much of the plot, Beth becomes involved with the police and is now herself in serious trouble. Max also becomes a prime suspect in the death of the neighbor as the couple did not like the man because he played music loud in the wee hours of the morning. Into the mayhem enters a policeman looking for Beth, but he does not recognize her. I really am not a fan of this kind of humor, but there were some laughable moments. This was due to the fine acting of the Kelly, LaTiri and Rob Gorman, who plays the Cop. Tehaan’s direction seemed to catch the essence of the play, and the action did move quickly.
There was really no set, only some furniture that came in and out, but the lighting by Jim Robertson is worth noting as it set the mood in the ghost play and helped create the potential conflict in “Miss Peddy and Grace.” All the actors were lit nicely as we went from locale to locale. Each play looked like the lighting was designed especially for that one-act.
One-Act Plays are often vehicles for playwrights to express ideas that are not always possible in a full-length play. This group of five allowed Silver Spring Stage to give some new and some experienced directors a chance to shine. This theatrical format also is a vehicle for actors to show their abilities, some taking lead roles after doing mainly supporting roles. Silver Spring Stage picked five very different and intriguing plays for its second weekend. I know the third weekend will be equally worthwhile. It is a great way to end the summer.
Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes with an Intermission.
“2019 One-Act Festival” continues until Sept. 1, 2019. Weekend 3 starts Friday, Aug. 30 at Silver Spring Stage in the Woodmoor Shopping Center – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. Tickets are available online.
Note: Susan Brall has a previous theatrical connection with Silver Spring Stage, but this did in no way affect this review.