Tuesday, November 6, 2012

AUM: "An Evening of One Act Plays"

Student written -- student directed -- student acted -------- Theatre AUM has mounted three one-act plays that were generated in a playwriting course last Spring. Though not yet the sophisticated product of experienced authors [the language has many cliches, there are a number of broad stereotypical characters and predictable conclusions, and the brief episodic scene structure prevents actors from developing characters & relationships in sustained scenes], the plays bring with them some promising signs that reflect AUM's dedication to educational theatre: an ability to present characters, plot, and conflict clearly, identifying a new talent pool of actors, as well as choosing subject matter that is current -- race, family, sexual orientation.

Played in front of Mike Winkelman's Mondrianesque structures that help define space and location for all three plays [with some simple adjustments and additions], Part I has two of the one-acts with just breathing room between them.

LaBrandon Tyre directs Amazed by Donna Smith, a short, sometimes confusing family drama whose characters are a mix of recognizably bizarre types who host an annual birthday party in the graveyard behind the family home for Constance's [Allyson Lee] long-deceased husband Beau. Though one character -- Evangeline [Samantha Blakely] -- is accepted by several universities, and Constance received a job offer in Shreveport, it is clear from the start that no one is really going anywhere, and that the petty jealousies of siblings (a lively interaction between Kerry Jackson and Amber Baldwin) will continue because, as Constance says: "even death won't come between us."

Next comes Choices by Daniel Brown. directed by Michael Krek, in which teenager Aldyn [ardently played by Jackson Wheeles], faces up to his homosexuality. Though it is something he has been taught to hate, he prays to be "normal" and gets more sympathy and acceptance from an atheist friend Stefani [Josie Profio] than from either of his parents [Ashley Stanaland & David Wilson] or the Minister [Keyra Thomas] his religious-fanatic mother enlists to engage in "spiritual warfare" to exorcise the evil spirit within him. --- Mr. Brown's attempts to include so much character-driven social commentary and amateur theology in the 30-minute playing time allow hardly any of them to register & sink in, despite some laudable performances.

Part II is devoted entirely to Keep Breathin' by Erica Johnson, and directed by Wes Milton, in which two sisters are reunited after an eight-year separation when Lizzie [Madison Clark] returns home pregnant and sick, and is cared for by Charlotte [Monique Hopkins], who puts her life on hold despite their life-long misunderstandings and mistrust, reasons for all of which are revealed in Ms. Johnson's overlong and sometimes rambling script that is long on emotional context, Biblical references, and moral platitudes from other characters.

Each of these novice playwrights shows promise, and while for now their hearts are firmly on thier sleeves, the ability to sensitively address matters that concern them may eventually allow them to write with greater efficiency and objectivity. -- A good start, and a testimony to Theatre AUM's mission of developing new theatrical voices.