"Harvest 10-10-10" at various locations, October 11-27, 2019
Since the site is not allowing the posting of reviews in its normal place, the backlog of my reviews will be going to the forum
Title: Harvest 10-10-23
Ten plays by ten different playwrights. Ten directors. Twenty-three actors. Put them on four different stages on four consecutive weekends. Spread the entertainment around (Lionheart 10/11-13, Atlanta Workshop Players 10/18-20, Onstage Atlanta 10/22-23, Atlanta Cuban Club (10/25-27).
The evening starts promisingly. In Jordan Richards’ "Another Minute," a waiter (Brock Kercher) is repeatedly asked to come back for their order in another minute as a dating couple (Kelley Young and Matty Forde) converse and consult the menu. Nina (the absolutely phenomenal Ms. Young) tends to go off on tangents, while Sam (Mr. Forde) attempts to make a connection with her. Under William Thurmond’s sure-handed direction, the play ends with the couple doing a tango in which Nina starts out doing the female part and ends doing the dominant male part. It’s a quirky play, but very well performed.
Bruce Karp’s "The Spot" is performed in four sections, which suits a play written in two scenes. The first portion features a male tree (Joseph McLaughlin) and a female tree (Lory Cox) conversing in Central Park in NYC, reminiscing about their 80 years in their respective positions and looking forward to (Ms. Cox) or dreading (Mr. McLaughlin) the approach of winter. Clever costuming gives them dark jumpsuits for trunks, gloves with twigs to suggest branches, and caps covered in autumn leaves. In director Gregory Fitzgerald’s staging, they stand on boxes and hold their arms in fixed positions to resemble tall trees.
"Is This Seat Taken?" by Brad Sytsma introduces us to a splitting couple (Domenico Fantozzi as Charlie and Jenny Herring as Nat). Charlie is returning a book to Nat in the park, then exits and returns to introduce himself as if they’ve never met. Nat is initially taken aback by his behavior, but they repeat variations on this pseudo-first-time meeting for the rest of the play. Matthew Easter’s direction can’t disguise the repetitiveness of the script, and Mr. Fantozzi’s fuzzy diction isn’t as clear as it should be.
Robin Doupe’s "The Claus Are Out" is, as the title would suggest, a Christmas-themed play. Mrs. Claus (Mary Claire Klooster) meets Santa (a rosy-cheeked Scott Gassman) at a restaurant and lists the grievances that have led her to request a divorce. In Colton Combs direction, she transforms from a red-and-white-garbed stereotype into a sleek, black-gowned, independent woman. Matty Forde makes a cameo appearance as a fan seeking a selfie with Santa. The play goes down easy, but is pretty skimpy for a theatrical meal.
A second portion of "The Spot" concentrates on a forgetful elderly woman (Debbie McLaughlin as Molly) being escorted to her favorite bench in Central Park by her son Mel (Rick Perera). The son is moving her into his place on Long Island due to her failing faculties, and she wants to make one last visit to her favorite spot, where she talks to the trees.
The first act ends with "Malcolm." Joe Starzyk’s script shows us a woman (Brandi Kilgore as Jenny) meeting her kinda boyfriend (Paul Milliken as Stuart) in a restaurant. She tells Stuart that she is going back to her previous boyfriend. He wishes she’d been up front about seeing this other man, and then this other man (Malcolm) shows up from a completely unexpected location. Jenny and Malcolm get all kissy-face in front of Stuart until a waitress (Taylor Davidson) shows up and greets Malcolm as her lover. This is a strong play with lots of comedy under Tanya Caldwell’s direction, and lasts exactly the right amount of time.
Lindsey Brown’s "Now .. About that Vote," which starts the second act, is another story altogether. Six members of the National Women’s League are meeting after WWI to draft a resolution demanding the right of women to vote. They start out with a simple declaration, then start altering it in attempts to make the demand more amenable to men, until finally going back to their original demand. The cast is uneven, and Scott King’s direction doesn’t wring all the comedy possible from the script. Assured performances come from Mary Claire Klooster, Courtney Loner, and Rebecca Spring, with Taylor Davidson doing nice work too. Costumes suggest the time period.
The third portion of "The Spot" starts a new scene, as Mel (Rick Perera) and his daughter Phoebe (Meredith Henderson) visit the favorite spot in Central Park of the now-deceased Molly. They discuss how Molly used to talk to the trees. And do the trees talk too?
Matthew Fowler’s "Aisle 6" is another strong entry. A high schooler sweeping up in a convenience store has a chat with an elderly man buying diapers as the store is just about to close. Sabrina (the once again fabulous Kelley Young) has lots of attitude, and Herman (the capable Gene Paulsson) is personable, but defensive. Under Doug Isbecque’s direction, the relationship of these two comes to life on the simple set (just a step stool, with a broom, dustpan, and shopping basket as props).
Jenny Mead’s "Must Love Pitbulls" features two of the cast members of "The Spot" and also takes place on a park bench, which can cause some initial confusion. Ann (Meredith Henderson) is sitting on the bench at a dog park, although she doesn’t have a dog, and encounters Elizabeth (Debbie McLaughlin), who is looking to give away her pitbull Dandy. Courtney Loner’s direction gets all the pathos possible from this tender story.
"All Roads Lead to Rome" shows us a lesbian couple (Christina Galasso and Brea Shaffer) discussing an offer by one’s parents to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy. She doesn’t have a good relationship with her mother, so she resists the offer, while her partner is all for an overseas trip. Jim Nelson’s direction can’t make this kitchen table discussion of a play catch much fire, and the actresses generally whine back and forth to each other, making Emily McClain’s script seem weak.
"The Spot" concludes with the trees wrapping things up after Molly’s ashes have been spread around the park bench. And maybe Mel and Phoebe will have a plaque installed on the park bench in memory of Molly. It’s a satisfactory ending for the play, although the relatively long scene change times have slackened the pace of the piece.
The evening ends with Emily Hageman’s "Present Tense," which seems under-rehearsed under Melissa Simmons’ direction. The set represents the interior of a car. Three siblings (driver Matthew Easter, shotgun Courtney Loner, and back seat Brock Kercher) are headed to the wedding of their mother, a mere year after their father’s death. The beginning is awkward, as Ms. Loner and Mr. Easter pretend to switch the radio dial and sing along with different songs. When younger brother David (Mr. Kercher) joins them, the discussion turns to their father, who wished to be remembered in the present tense. It’s very energetic (almost manic), and the non-stop liveliness lessens the poignant impact of the final moments.
Technically, the show can be rocky. Music transitions between plays are choppy, with the play-off music of one play abruptly stopping as the play-on music for the next play begins. Lighting cues can seem awkward too, no doubt exacerbated by the necessity of working in a new space each week. Sporadic misplacing of set pieces is sometimes corrected by an entering actor, and sometimes not. But technical glitches are a small price to play for getting Onion Man’s ten short plays seen around town for their tenth anniversary.