This weekend I went and saw the Elite Theatre Company’s 9th Annual One Act Festival. This is a country wide competition for playwrights to submit unique short works and the top 5 plays are performed. This year’s offering delivers plays from as far as Washington, DC and New York City. I was in the 7th Annual Festival and I’ve seen other One-Act Festivals and I have to say this is the best collection I’ve seen in quite some time.
The first show (Victimology by Rachel Linton) is about siblings, played by siblings Hayley and Steven Silvers, is about a tenuous family relationship between two victims (or survivors depending on your point of view) of an abusive father. While the abuse is never spelled out the two talented actors keep the emotions raw and real while pulling the audience through the dense tapestry of familial bonds. In an interesting push and pull Hayley and Steven’s tête-à-tête will make you choose sides, maybe even go back and forth on the decision a few times. Well-acted by both, but I wish the stage was smaller. Putting this volatile relationship in a more confined space would have upped the stakes and forced the pair to make different choices.
The next one was The Waiting Room by Steven Doloff. Steve Grumette shines as the old man (Morris) who is ever so willing to talk to people in a hospital waiting room, where no one seems to want to ever talk. The Morris character is deaf and talkative (always a great comedic duo) and brings instant laughs with Flynn Bradly deftly playing the straight man to Grumette in their first interaction. This comedy is much needed respite from the tension of the previous vignette. Stephanie Rice (as Rhonda) is adept at entering the stage in obvious emotional turmoil, slowly warming up to this old man and really brings the scene to life. A director’s note; the chairs are angled so they close off the audience rather than face the audience, which at times left actor’s upstaging themselves. Colin Fluxman comes in as Dr. Charney the comedic foil to Morris who gives him a dose of his own medicine (pun intended) and brings the scene home. The entire episode is great including a strong moment by Grumette who shows wonderful vulnerability at times, especially when he’s left alone. It’s a shame he did not take a chance to bow at the curtain call at the end with the other actors, he deserves a well won applause.
Obits, by Terry Riley features a sharp, witty pair of grannies talking about smart phones, and dead people. It’s a cute scene- one stolen by Helene Benjamin Cohen as the adorable Marg who is bullied by her friend Fran (Sandra Demogenes.) This quick, fun scene is very “local” and talks about the local paper, and nearby cities and while the subject matter is a bit morbid on it’s surface, it’s a good dark comedy.
After the intermission we are greeted by a failed suicide and a bruised and broken John Comstock playing Bernie in Five Days in Calcutta by Fred Perry. Comstock is convincing as a depressed, drug-addicted, alcoholic artist. His wife has left him, his dog has died, and he has nothing to live for. Tony Stetson is Sid, the older brother who should be tired of this but does his doctorly duties in patching up his bereaved brethren. With Comstock splashing liquor all over the trashed set and Stetson making laps around the stage the comedy laid out by director Larry Swartz is entertaining and a very strong way to start the short second act.
The final piece (Sisters, Tramps and Thieves by Lilly Rusek) brings us the fabulous Malloy sisters. The uptight, Pamela played by Dorrie Braun who has to deal with the delusional and spritely Dorothy (Nancy Hullihan) and the acid washed, dead-head homeless rocker Stephanie (Sharon Reinhold.) The latter duo imbues the house with such chaos the audience can’t help but root for Pamela to explode into a fit of absolute rage. Larry Swartz played Clifford Lindell, the insurance agent sent to investigate a claim for a missing piece of priceless jewelry as Reinhold slatternly debases herself for his attention. This would steal the show if Hullihan wasn’t so quixotic as the cape wearing, tiara donning, absent minded princess.
All in all a wonderful collection of One Acts. Often, I see that actors are not willing to be in the One-Acts, directors aren’t willing to dedicate time to direct it, and audience members are hesitant to see which group of talent was stitched together on short notice of “no one doing anything else right now.” But these came off as very well curated, performed to a high level and more than worthy of your time for a trip out the Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard. You can find out more information on their website www.elitetheatre.org All tickets are 17 Dollars and the Festival runs until Feb 4th.