INOLA M. McGuire reviews
John Chatterton’s Short Play Lab
Davenport Theatre, Black Box
244 West 54th Street, New York, NY
On Saturday, September 19th, 2015
The first performance of the evening is “On Pace” by Ray Nelson, directed by Blayze Teicher; and starring Richard Clodfelter, Paula Gates, and Jonathan Lee-Rey.
The audience gets a glimpse of a middle-age man doing his routine as a runner to get back in shape and in control of his life. He begins this tedious task before his wife gets out of bed. She is curious about what he is up to in the morning. The wife tries to stay in shape with the aid of a young neighbor. The husband lies on the ground in an effort to hide the true reason for his being up so early. The wife and young neighbor fuss with the husband to lie still. They want to call an ambulance for him. He wants no part of their suggestion.
The issue of food comes up and the husband informs his wife of her culinary skills that need improvement, and he reminds her that they are the last of the white people on the block. To add more fire to the fury, the husband informs the audience of all of his dislikes and he lets his wife understands that, as a couple, they have been running their whole lives.
The writer gets his message across to the audience. Things are never what they appear to be with a couple. There could be hidden grudges and other resentments that destroy the love and harmony in a marriage. As the saying in the good book says, “don’t make the left knows what the right knows.” In the husband’s case, he did not want his wife to know that he was in competition with her plain and simple.
The second performance of the evening is “Kinsey” by Jessica Moss, directed by Jessica Moss; and starring Jessica Moss.
This one-woman show gives the audience a clear view into the life of a 14 year-old Kinsey who had a crap of a time adjusting to her teenage years. She has a sense of intuition that allows her to foresee things. In Kinsey’s situation, her father dies and she gets instruction from her mother to go upstairs and see her dead father.
In addition to acting out as a rite of passage as a teenager, Kinsey cheats on her Spanish test. She is bullied at school and she is unsuccessful in making friends, too. When she is told about her father’s death, she didn’t show any emotion; and her action bothered her mother.
The writer get her message across to the audience. Being a teenager is a rough rite of passage for some girls, and through frustration; some of the girls act out as a way to seek attention from friends and love ones. It is very important to have open communication with girls who may be destined to get into trouble deliberately. Teenage girls like Kinsey need as much love and understanding from their family and friends.
The third performance of the evening is “Ashes” by Leonard D. Goodisman, directed by Katherine Wilkins; and starring Sophia Mahmoud and Rishi Mukherjee.
The audience sees a grieving mother and an angry partner arguing with each other in an apartment. The mother wants to make amends with her supposedly deceased son’s lover. During their interaction, the revelation of the mother’s behavior towards her son when she found out about his sexual orientation was disastrous. She abandoned him plain and simple. Now, she wants to blame his lover, partner, for his demise.
The partner wants her out of the apartment. She repeats her refrain, “I want my Bobby back!” The lover throws in a few jabs of his own with numerous acquisitions to send the mother flying. She tries to bribe him. The partner wants time to think about the condition of the bribe. Both of them should share his memory with tranquility. She lets her son’s partner know that not all mothers want to hear or know that their sons are guy. She demands her son’s ashes. However, the partner informs her that her son’s not dead; but he is close to death’s door. Bobby’s still hanging on!
The message that this writer shares with the audience teaches tolerance and understanding for all. Most mothers do not want to know that their sons do not fit into the norms of society because they expect to become grandparents. On the other hand, men have gotten the green light to be themselves in today’s society. Hiding your sexual orientation is a thing of the past. Mothers just have to learn to deal with the hand that they were dealt with in these times.
The fourth performance of the evening is “Woman Up” by Kelly Canavan, directed by Emily Canavan; starring Emily Canavan and Anika Harden.
The performance shows the audience two women on a trip. The driver appears to be a hysterical type who gazes away from the road. The passenger demonstrates a stern demeanor, and she wants the driver to pay attention to the road. The woman in the passenger’s seat continues to ask the driver the same question, “Are you okay?” Both of them are on two different planets; yet they are sitting beside each other.
The driver is a second away from a traffic accident, but she is able to hold her own. The passenger, her company, wants to cheer her up for a few seconds. It is a toxic trip all the way. Surprisingly, they get to their destination in one piece with a great shout, “we are here!”
The writer’s message shows the audience how two travelers can be very toxic for each other. Their disagreements and other factors serve as a catalyst for the things one doesn’t want to endure. The audience surely learn from the performance. It serves as a cautionary tale for those people who like to take road trips.
The fifth performance of the evening is “The Cellers” by EJ Sepp, directed by EJ Sepp; and starring Nicoletta DeRose and Mark Richard Goldman.
The audience sees a poster, “HappyPhone,” as the name of a business. Kent wants to get his cell phone to work but the employees at this establishment ignore him. An obnoxious female employee tries to chastise him, and she rudely tries to put words in his mouth. At least half a dozen times, the woman repeats that she is trying to help Kent without really trying to help him. Kent deserves better treatment, but he is in a Twilight Zone.
The writer gets his message across to the audience. What the audience witnesses on stage is not too far fetch from the conditions in the workplace when customers try to get good customer service. It is a common place occurrence that I have observed and other people have complained about on a few occasions.
The sixth performance of the evening is “Anna” by Susie Neilson, directed by Susie Neilson; and starring Alison Maddren and Benjamin Howe.
The performance begins with a woman sitting on the floor of the stage drinking wine from a bottle, a pizza box, her cell phone, a book, outfits and lipstick are all on the floor next to her. A voice over, then music, a man’s voice speaks, “Wanna Bet?”
Anna texting and receiving texts from her ex-boyfriend forces her to drink from the bottle. Also, he escalates his bombardment with calling, too. She tries to be strong! He insults her intelligence by professing his love for her. The audience views him as an over-bearing character with a cosmic connection to Anna.
The messages from the writer spells out the word caution to the audience. It is always a great idea to get to know a person before one gets too close to him or her. Stalkers are for real! Some of them are relentless, and the audience witnesses how relentless one can be in and out of their victims’ lives.
The seventh performance of the evening is “For the Love of Rosa” by R. G. Rader, directed by R. G. Rader; and staring Chanis Reyes and Jason G. Rader.
The audience sees two people trying to be friendly with each other on a certain level. The female objects to seeing Rosa. The male tries to persuade her to change her mind about Rosa. After a few moments, the conversation changes and the female speaks great things about Rosa. The couples speak about Rosa’s marriage and the type of relationship she had with her husband. In a split fraction of time, the couple decides to be there for Rosa.
The audience wonders why such a change in attitude for Rosa as it views the couple as older people. As the saying goes, “with age brings reason.” This is probably the position the audience takes about the couple with Rosa as its topic of discussion. At the funeral, the couple reiterate how funny Rosa was during her life time; for the people remember the little things that made her very special in the good old days. In the end, the couple wonders or thinks in its mind, “Don’t we all hate Rosa?”
The writer gets the message across to the audience in a profound way. In many instances, some people may dislike their close friends for specific reasons. On the other hand, a good-nature person’s ability to communicate with others may be construed as a negative instead of a positive trait among friends. It is always best to choose your battles wisely instead of trying to win the war. Some friends may just have a love and hate relationship with you because of your personality. Just tread lightly when it comes to friendships.
The eighth performance of the evening is “Invisible of the Sidewalk” by Ran Xia, directed by Mary St. Angelo; and staring Kara Hankard, Andrew Dunn, and Nichole Jorgensen.
The performance begins with a man and a woman on stage. The audience hears and sees the man as he makes noise. Another woman enters with lots of newspapers. By this time, it is not hard to surmise that these people are vying for space on the sidewalk. The discourse among the actors reveals the importance of getting the right spot on the sidewalk and the problem with overcrowding through homelessness.
The writer’s message speaks volume to the audience, and it hears and sees the ramification of homelessness in urban cities. New York City is one such place with a large population of poor and destitute people trying to survive on the sidewalks. Capitalism has no conscience for people without money and high-paying jobs. However, there need to be another approach to homelessness and the disenfranchisement of the masses in this society.
The Short Play Lab presented by John Chatterton deserves more recognition than it has gotten in the past. It is a great opportunity for playwrights to showcase their work through the auspices John’s dedication to the theatre.