Silver Spring Stage has become a performing arts landmark in their community and it was great to come back to the newly-renovated theatre now that outside construction has ended. It was also a pleasure to see them resurrect the “One-Act Festival” which usually opens their seasons. This festival has always been a wonderful venue for new playwrights and directors. There are always seasoned performers and new faces mixed into the casts. This group of one act-plays, produced by Seth Ghitelman, is no exception.
Silver Spring Stage’s “2023 One-Act Festival” may be one of their best and should not be missed.
The opening was a short piece by Em German called “Banana Brains,” directed by Yvonne Paretzky. It featured Helen Cheng Mao as May, a highly neurotic young women applying for a job as a cleaner of crime scenes. (Note: Imaan Khan alternates with Mao in the role.) As she goes about obsessively cleaning the office of the Interviewer (Brett Murray) who tries to slip in some questions, May chatters endlessly away. It was a great opening to the afternoon of theatre—light, funny, and with a hint of macabre. Mao does a good job with her character.
My personal favorite was “Funeral for a Cat” by B. G. Craig and directed by Vanessa Markowitz. Anyone who has had to deal with the death of an older pet can relate to this one. Grandma Judy’s (Marla Harper) cat and longtime companion has passed. Judy’s daughter, Pamela (Cecily Norman) and granddaughter, Madison (Charlotte Richesson) come to help her bury the animal only to find out Grandma has decided to have a viewing, minister and all. Of course, a minister who specializes doing in-home pet funerals is going to be a little whacky and Rev. Elizabeth (Emily Ray) is just that. The play has plenty of humor but also some pathos as the daughter and granddaughter come to understand the mindset of their matriarch. Harper gives a stand-out performance as Judy with great support from Norman, Richesson, and Ray.
Those who have reconnected with someone from their youth and find out the relationship then was quite different than they imagined will love “A Snowball’s Chance” by Jeff Dunne and directed by Karen Fleming. Amanda (Maura Suilebhan) and Dave (Matthew Dantas-McCutcheon) return to their recently deceased parents’ home to close it up. In the attic, they find some memories of their youth where they created a fantasy world of their own based on the “Chronicles of Narnia.” Their good friend from those times, Scott (Andrew Greenleaf), comes to give his condolences and also help celebrate their past. In the process, he reveals a great deal to Amanda about his feelings dating from twenty years ago. “A Snowball’s Chance” is a sweet piece with touches of sadness. All three performers connected well in this moving production.
“i didn’t think you’d be so unhappy,’ written by Shara Felt and directed by Sophia Menconi, looks at the lives of two women and a teenage girl. The scene is in an alley of a synagogue during a Bat Mitzvah. Jules (Layla Nabavi) and Rebecca (Jenny Oberholtzer) have been hired as party planners for the event. Jules and Rebecca reveal their closeness while other issues crop up along the way. They are interrupted by the appearance of the Bat Mitzvah Girl (Zophia Shamapande) who is in tears. The Girl is surprised these adult women are still solving life’s problems and don’t have it all under control. She comes to realize she has misjudged not just these two women, but also may not have quite figured out everything herself. Strong performances by all three women keep this play moving and full of energy.
At first I thought “Five Grains of Rice,” written and directed by Arindam Ghosh, was just another drawing room drama or soap-opera. As the characters reveal themselves, we find things are quite different than we imagined. Jayant Trivedi (Arindam Ghosh) and his wife Ela Trivedi (Shampa Basu) are living in a metropolis in India. Jayant is a research doctor and Ela, his long-time supporter, is putting her life on hold while Jayant tries to get funding for his work. Into their lives returns Damini Malhotra (Aditi Bhattacharya), Jayant’s old flame, who is now wealthy because of an inheritance. She was also a medical researcher but gave it all up to become a food taster. Jayant is incensed that she gave up her chance to find a cure for cancer to do something so frivolous. Basu is superb as Ela, revealing the character’s past and her present emotions. Ghosh does a fine job conveying the Indian husband who, despite his love for his wife, is short-sighted about her needs and emotions. Bhattacharya also develops her character to reveal someone more complicated than just a spiteful ex-girlfriend. There are many twists and turns in the plot so pay close attention.
Don Slater and Rich Frangiamore are responsible for the seamless lighting and sound design, respectively.
Silver Spring Stage’s “2023 One-Act Festival” may be one of their best and should not be missed. It was a wonderful way to come back to an old friend.
Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.
Advisory: Ages 13+. Some strong language and sexual situations.
“2023 One-Act Festival” runs through October 1, 2023 at Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901. For more information and tickets, go online. There are no Covid restrictions at present.