REVIEW by ZARA ZEIDMAN
DARK PLANET: Not Your Mother’s Valentines Day is a series of short plays that explores love, betrayal, sexual orientation and communication. The festival is divided into two parts, the first part is titled THE X’s and includes four short plays, the second is THE O’s and features six short plays. The plays were a charming combination of humor and sincerity whilst exploring many dynamic characters.
Each play required a set change and the sets were minimal but provided more than enough to establish the world the characters lived in. The sound design was also really effective at creating the environment, though it was subtle.
The opening play was a very candid look at online dating and the excitement and discomfort it brings. The connection between the actors was believable, the nervousness paired with false confidence was gripping and, it was the perfect opener and set the right tension for the show
Shadow Dance really stood out amongst the other plays in THE X’s. The surreal writing combined with the strong performances from each of the actresses. Joyce Miller’s performance was particularly memorable because she delivered each line with a mystical sincerity, not a child nor an adult, not human but not alien, capturing the confusion that love creates.
Bank was also a memorable piece, it explored the frustration the LGBTQ community faces when dealing with the ignorant, and the confusion the ignorant must overcome to adapt to this modern environment. This was a really beautiful scene, a young banker (Ashleen Rowan) attempts to help a man (Michael Gnat) deposit a check but when she is informed that he is married to a man, she becomes hesitant and uncomfortable. The tension builds as the man explains his impatience with the banker and everyone like her that he has had to accommodate for and she begs for his patience, for this is her first experience with a a person who is gay. There is not an animosity between the two characters but rather a genuine connection as they learn to understand one another. The actors, Michael Gnat and Ashleen Rowan, truly did a beautiful job of creating tension and sympathy in this scene. Both of these actors appeared in other scenes and proved themselves as versatile and talented actors.
A Day At The Beach was a hilarious conclusion to the set of plays. The ridiculousness of the play and the genuine cluelessness of the younger brother, (Ali Arkane) who has impregnated his mother (Madalyn McKay) offset by the older brother’s (John Fico) perfectly comedic irritation with them,created a bizarre dynamic that addressed disjointed families that lacked true connection or good communication. The father (Micheal Gnat) is unconcerned with the development of his younger sons relationship with his mother, instead focusing on his own affair and the state of his boat, meanwhile the mother lays sunbathing in a beach chair, oblivious to the chaos around her.
The other pieces throughout the festival were not as provocative and felt a bit familiar, they still explored interesting themes about power and communication, but each other piece had prominent flaws that distracted from those themes. There was a lack of believability and connection between the actors on stage, though the performances independently were fine. Each play did have an element of intrigue they just weren’t as strong as the previously mentioned pieces.
I had the privilege of seeing it on Valentine’s Day and it truly made the night, it was an overall, funny, sincere, and wonderful experience and I would recommend seeing it and interpreting each piece for yourself.