Live Active Cultures 

Reviews of Joseph Hayes’ “Slow Ride” and Playwrights’ Round Tables “Summer Shorts”

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Summer is usually time to take things slow, but not for multidisciplinary artist Joseph Hayes, Orlando’s self-described “artistic irritant that creates pearls.” His 13in13 Project (13in13.net) set the “crazy” goal of producing an original work every four weeks in 2013, and last weekend he debuted the eighth, A Slow Ride, a 45-minute single-act slice of life featuring three fractured females.

Jezebel (Jac LeDoux) is an overly emotive ex-hippie grandma whose obsession with numerology and Woodstock-era reminiscences about Grace Slick and Allen Ginsberg may be signs of incipient Alzheimer’s. Also along for the ride are Sue (Wendy Starkand), Jezebel’s exhausted daughter, who feels like a pre-menopausal tarnished penny; and 17-year-old gloomy goth granddaughter Rita (Kate Lockwood), given to dropping pop-culture references (Nine Inch Nails, cyberpunk) that predate her birth.

Hayes’ script steers more toward long, introspective monologues than dramatic action, but his dialogue – which the cast delivered with alacrity – is crisp and quick-witted. Director Sylvia Vicchiullo cleverly utilized College Park’s Downtown Credo coffeehouse, creating audience interaction from before the curtain, and the ensemble did an admirable job making their archetypal roles into relatable characters. The too-soon ending made me wish for a longer journey with these women.

If you missed Hayes’ production but are partial to premieres, Playwrights’ Round Table (theprt.com) still has another weekend of “Summer Shorts” at Shakes for you. PRT’s artistic directors Tara Rewis and Chuck Dent have put together a seven-playlet program without a stated theme, but that repeatedly refers to death in various forms. Here are my mini-reviews:

Graceland by Katie Thayer, directed by Buddy Fales

An elderly Elvis aficionado (Amy Cuccaro) en route to Graceland encounters a suspiciously intuitive waitress (Brittany Davies) in a roadside café. The first half is one long exposition dump, and the main character’s existential conflict is resolved far too quickly, but the actresses’ warm rapport resolves in a sweet ending.

Gamma Day by David Kaplan, directed by David Strauss

Jason (Rob Del Medico) and Rose (Lyndsey Elizabeth) sit in a near-future waiting room, awaiting the activation of their superpowers and debating the ethics of government-sponsored genetic enhancements. Interesting ideas with real-world relevance are in play, although the actors’ interactions feel somewhat unnatural.

One Life by Mark Cornell, directed by Jenny Ornstein

The ordinary life of everyman Luke (Chris Prueitt) is elegiacally narrated from birth to death by personifications of Feeling (Kendra Musselle), Action (Rolando Ramos) and Thought (Sam Waters). Prueitt’s mute pantomime is pitch-perfect, and the trio’s perfectly paced poetry is heartfelt and wistful without becoming cloying, making this my pick for the best piece of the program.

50 Guns by Alex Broun, directed by Keith Charles Traver

Emma (Kimberly Luffman) memorializes victims of gun violence in endless notebooks, attempting to exorcise her painful past. This is more a polemic than a play, namedropping Aurora, Sandy Hook and Trayvon. Luffman emotes effectively, but has little character or context to play.

Adapt by Ryan Bernier, directed by Gary Norris

Heartbroken parents (Mike Osowski, Terri Schmidt) agonize in the aftermath of a mass killing while trying to comfort their son’s guilt-ridden best friend (Matt Carroll). A mirror image of 50 Guns, the raw emotions here are appropriately overwrought, offering no easy answers about the power of forgiveness in the face of evil.

How You Will Die by Irene L. Pynn, directed by Rob Cunha

A sepulchral shopkeeper (Sean Kerrigan) offers an unusual object to two credulous customers (BeeJay Clinton, Kendra Musselle): a mirror that purports to reveal how the gazer will perish. Some of the rapid-fire dialogue sounds under-rehearsed, but there’s a fine mix of mirth and macabre in this Tales From the Crypt-inspired stinger.

Inheritance by David Strauss, directed by Jo’el Perez

The ties that bind a pair of small-time Philly crooks (Jim Cundiff, Rob Del Medico) strain to the snapping point after an unauthorized heist puts the mob on their tail. Strauss has an ear for Reservoir Dogs-meets-Sopranos dialogue, and Cundiff’s muscular portrayal of a broken man makes for compelling viewing through to the nihilistic conclusion.

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