DOORS OPEN WALK THRU … to a fine night in the theatre

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DOORS OPEN WALK THRU
13TH STREET PLAYHOUSE
REVIEW BY Inola M. McGuire

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The first play of the evening was “Whole Against the Sky” written by Susan Merson, directed by Shellen Lubin, designed by Matthew Gandolfo and performed by four actors. The setting of this play was Sarah’s living room and her memory. The play begins with Sara sitting on one side of her living room and Jake on the other side. They begin to reminisce about their lives together in the many different stages of their relationship.

Within minutes, a younger couple enters the stage to represent the memory of Sara and Jake. Both couple was in unison when they reminisce about their journey in an uncharted territory. It was refreshing to hear the couple reflecting on their trip during their honeymoon that had twists, turns, ascending and downhill encounters. They had to navigate through all of these obstacles that were thrown at them as a young couple. The couple’s six- week vacation on the road through the Mediterranean region seems as an educational experience for people who are into cultures and enjoying each other’s company as a bonus.

As an older couple, Sara and Jake live on their memories which enhance their time together. They appreciate their lives together although the zest was out of their marriage. The cycle of life is present in this play and the writer surely convinces the audience by a certain level of sophistication in the dialogue.

The audience was mesmerized by the interaction of the actors and their dialogues because they describe a whole life time of adventures in a very short space of time. The couple’s shared experiences and culture shock give the audience an evening of exultation. I will surely recommend others to see this play because it will take you out of the American landscape, and allow the audience to get a glimpse as to how other people live in other parts of the world.

The second play of the evening was “Ron the Contortionist” written by Susan Merson, directed by Shellen Lubin, designed by Matthew Gandolfo and performed by two actors. The setting of this play was a quiet afternoon in a restaurant, Ron’s car, and Sarah’s bedroom. The play begins with Sara and Ron sitting in a restaurant conversing with each other at a table. They engage in conversation where Ron tries to unburden himself of a secret. However, he beats around the bushes with his secret. Sara tries to accommodate Ron in a charming manner before they leave the restaurant for their next activity of the afternoon.

Sara’s character mentioning the drinking of mint tea instead of Espresso coffee in the play suggests to the audience that Sara’s character has something special on her mind for Ron. She suggests that Mint tea creates a stimulating effect when consume after 2:00 pm although they discuss dessert, careers and relationships. Both characters have issues with touching. Ron’s character was touched too much throughout his life and career and Sara’s character has a longing to touch and being touched.

In the car setting, both actors continue to talk about their lives; and Sara probes Ron for information. She talks about her husband and life in New York City with her aunt with Ron and he divulges tidbit his two failed marriages. Sara’s character touches Ron and he almost jumps out of his skin. Sara’s touch causes a sudden impulse in his response. Ron hints a little more about his secret. Sara tries to be patient. The audience seems curious to hear what was burdening this poor man. It surely aroused my curiosity to learn more about this secret. However, the writer places the setup at the beginning of the play and the audience’s expectation was heightened. The suspense was awesome and it created an edgy moment for me.

Now, the moment of revelation in Sarah’s bedroom setting forces Ron to tell Sara about his experience with his trainer from start to finish. The audience was mesmerized by his dialogue. To me, Ron describes a man being groomed to be a homosexual instead of a heterosexual male. Sara looks of bewilderment as she sits next to Ron changed the mood of the audience. After Ron unburdens himself with the blow-by-blow disclosure of his secret, he gets dress and leaves the room.

The writer wants the audience to see and know about the perils of dating during midlife. She wants women and men to ask the right questions before they get involved with their prospective partners. Most people have a story to tell or they may need to unburden themselves before they are right or ready for a meaningful relationship. I will recommend others to see this play because there are lessons to be learned and insight to gain by many baby boomers in our society.

The third play of the evening was “Sido’s Garden” written by Susan Merson, directed by Shellen Lubin, designed by Matthew Gandolfo and performed by two actors. The setting of this play was a stone house in the French countryside and Lulu’s apartment back home. The play begins with Sara entering the home and speaking on her cell phone with a French bread in her hand as she anticipates preparing a meal. On the other side of the stage that represents the apartment, the daughter lies in her bed.

Sara makes a writing pad out of the paper bag her bread was in, and she writes a letter to her daughter on it. In the meantime, the audience sees the daughter lying in her bed in her apartment. The two different locations in the play are visible to the audience as the ladies navigate through their individual life. Later in the play, the daughter reads the letter she receives from her mother, as the mother verbalize her written words to her daughter at the other location. The repetitions of the same letter by both women increase the intensity of the discourse between them through correspondence.

This was a great moment for the audience to appreciate the importance of the written words and the healing effect they can generate for humanity. With today’s technological advancements, the art of writing has been dumb down to fewer words on electronic devices. However, being able to put your thoughts on paper is a valuable skill, and the writer proves her point to the audience.

Being in countryside has a tranquil effect on people who enjoy nature. The contrast between both scenes gives the audience a moment to compare the locations. In my mind, I think the mother’s character wants to hold on to her experiences and she teaches her daughter about life’s brushes, scrapes, and bruises without too much difficulty. It is a great thing to be ushered through life by learning from other people’s experiences, being blunders or meaningful decisions.

When both actors change place on stage, the audience was able to see the importance of the human interaction. The writer allows the audience to see how the older character can reflects on her life, and this can become a blueprint for others to emulate in time of need.

A Gamut of Human Vice; Sex, Drugs, Race, Bigotry, and Murder

Reviewed by Christine Melton

On May 23rd I had the pleasure of attending John Chatterton’s Short Play Lab at the Elektra Theatre on West 43rd Street. This night of short plays covered the gamut of human vice; sex, drugs, race, bigotry, and murder. Producer J Chatterton had the audience vote on which play they liked best. The popular votes coincided with the plays that appeared to have more experienced writers and actors. This night of theater was a low budget affair with high production values; most notably art, sound, and lights by Scott Williams and first class direction by Jade Rojas, Liana S. Afuni, Natasha Lynn Tucker, Christen Omantra Callahan, Teri Foltz, and Clifford Berry … Christine Melton

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First, was Film Sonnet 5: La Passion de la Souffrance by Ericka Mitton.
Clumsy dance starts off what is meant to be the hottest attraction in Paris burlesque shows. The actors line reads were as awkward as their dance with the exception of Ivan Shastak. His French accent was well done except that it switched occasionally to a Russian accent. This actor never faced the audience favoring a left profile which makes one wonder if it was his first acting experience.

An Excerpt from the Book of Adam by John Ladd, was captioned as a “fresh – understanding of what really happened in The Garden of Eden… in Adam’s own words”. It began with a narrator whose lines were drowned out/ obscured by the volume of the music. The new understanding of what happened in the Garden of Eden gives the explanation that a serpent was Eve’s tempter that encouraged her to eat forbidden fruit. Adam calls it a snake and is corrected by Eve who points out that snakes bite but serpents do not. This bit of information was the most interesting of the play along with the blank stare by Liana Afuni whose hook line “It just came to me” explained all her insights about what was to come. Adam on the other hand had information directly from God who told him they should go to Canaan where they would eat bagels, lox, and Gifilte Fish. The new insight suggested that these biblical characters knew back in x year BC that Jewish people were destined to enjoy tasty foods in their future.

When the Mocha Latte Hits the Fan by Arthur French III, was a touching piece that unfolded beautifully as a no nonsense Starbucks employee, Chris Raglin tells a middle aged woman, Ebbe Bessey, that she should leave or purchase a drink. The manager, Darek Black comes to sort out the conflict and mentions that he and the customer had established ground rules. She quips that she chooses to be there to watch the sun rise which inspires her song writing. A whole history unfolds; she lives in a halfway house, is trying to stay off drugs, and gave her baby up to follow her show biz career. The revelation that the Starbucks manager is the son she gave up and now asks to have a relationship with is moving. The manager appears beyond cruel that he won’t offer this struggling mother a complimentary cup of coffee so she can remain there. In tears she explains the hard choice in the past to follow her dream and how she is compelled to be at Starbucks now. The pun implied is that She not only wants to see the sun rise but she wants to see her son rise. A loving gesture by the manager offering his mother bottled water gives hope that a bond has begun to form between the two. Kudos to this tight ensemble and the stand-out poignant performance of Ebbe Bessey.

A Visit from Breitenberg by Charles Durgin,- A father, Paul Morwin, has made an arrangement with his daughter, Shannon Lower, to get her and her children away from her Nazi husband in WW II Austria. The husband, Mathew Carlson, is an army officer and doctor who has a collection of photos documenting the faces of fear. Part of the escape plan was the precaution to empty the husband’s gun. The husband comes home just as his wife and father were about to leave. The father is emphatic that his son-in-law’s Party Values are inhumane but the son’s chilling reply affirms supposed Arian superiority. The officer points his gun attempting to stop the escape but is surprisingly shot by the wife instead who had her own concealed gun. The wounded officer showing his first signs of warmth implores his father-in–law to promise that he will see his children again. This was a stellar cast with a plot that begs to be lengthened.

The Off Chance by Teri Foltz,- A woman, Melissa Keller, comes into a laundry mat and starts a conversation with a man, Chris Payne, who is writing in a little black book. He has been copying his horoscope into a black book for three years. He’s attempting to make his future happen by following his daily horoscope and conducting himself in accord with the horoscope to make each prediction a reality. He explains that he failed to fulfill the actions one day, June 21st, two years ago, a source of great anguish. The woman has come in to avoid the bad habit of holding onto a relationship that has ended. She’s at the laundry and has left her phone at home so she can prevent herself phoning up her ex-boyfriend. The woman’s birthday is June 21st. Two years ago the man’s failed completion of acting out his horoscope led him to the wrong hospital room where he searched for his sick relative. Who did he find instead? Who else, his laundry companion who was having a procedure that very day when a “stranger” mistakenly entered her hospital room. One could say it’s a coincidence but it appears to be fate. This was a sweet love affair beautifully acted and written in the stars.

Really? by Race Brown, directed by Clifford Berry;
The premise is a wife who wants to divorce her husband who shows his objection by an effective off-stage knife attack. While the deed is taking place the victim groans in agony. The husband’s mistress arrives to find her bloodied lover saying he had just killed his wife because she planned to leave him. The outraged mistress says “you should have wanted to kill me because you love me and didn’t want me to leave you, not your wife”. The wounded wife stumbles out saying, “I’m not dead yet”. This joke gets repeated by each subsequent victim and gets funnier each time. Each repetition of attack, reaction, and stumbling “not dead yet” corpse was hilarious. This was a melodrama complete with live and taped sound effects; Blood and attempted murder done hilariously. This adroit direction perfectly timed a bell to ring to signal each actor’s entrance, tension music sounded and the latest attacker snapped their head in sync to a dramatic music crescendo, weapon in hand and face bloodied. Who knew attempted murder could be so funny? This great ensemble featured KL Thomas, Chris D’Amato, Simoné Bart, and Marcus Desion.

The night ended with the audience votes counted and producer John Chatterton informing us that the playwright with the highest votes would receive a monetary reward.