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Life is Short!

a New Play
by Original 10-Minute Plays by Atlanta Playwrights

COMPANY : Onion Man Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 3973

SHOWING : June 02, 2011 - June 12, 2011



A collection of original 10-Minute Plays by Atlanta playwrights that remind us the "life" is good!

Writer, "The False Funeral" Daniel Carter Brown
Writer, "The Achilles Plan" Sean Casey
Writer, "Final Arrangements" David Fisher
Writer, "Sam in the Box" David Silverman
Writer, "New Age Farewells, Inc." Susan Steadman
Director, "The Achilles Plan" Judith Beasley
Director, "Sam in the Box" J. Michael Carroll
Director, "Final Arrangements" Carolyn Choe
Director, "New Age Farewells, Inc." Jaclyn Hoffman
Director, "New Age Farewells, Inc." Jaclyn Hofmann
Director, "The False Funeral" Phillip Justman
Director "A Fine Farewell When Everest F Kati Grace Morton
Director, "The Professional" Mary Saville
Director, "Everybody Talkin' 'Bout Heave Kathy Simmons
Joe, "The Achilles Plan" Richard Blair
Bobby., "The Achilles Plan" Daniel Carter Brown
Penny, "The Achilles Plan" Amy Cain
Corinne Hobbs "Final Arrangements" Carolyn Choe
Abbie, "A Fine Farewell When Everest Fel Lory Cox
Arletta "Final Arrangements" Barbara Joanne Rudy
Dixon Hollister "Final Arrangements" Chris Sawyer
Ralph, "A Fine Farewell When Everest Fel Bob Smith
Daisy, "A Fine Farewell When Everest Fel Michael Tarver
Lenny, "A Fine Farewell When Everest Fel Kenneth Wigley
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Death, and Other Comic Sketches
by Dedalus
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Onion Man Productions continues its tradition of building an evening of short original one-acts around a single set. “Life is Short” gives us 10 playlets (some little more than sketches) set in a funeral parlour. Before discussing the collection in general, let me air some thoughts on the particular plays.

NEW AGE FAREWELLS, INC by Susan M. Steadman (Grade: C)

The show starts out with a bit of a mis-step. Ms. Steadman has written a highly contrived piece in which three recent widows have to share a room to record farewell messages that will “play forever” in the caskets of their various beloveds. While it wouldn’t surprise me if such services actually exist, it does stretch my willing-suspension-of-disbelief to see it on stage, especially when accompanied by a bull-in-the-china shop sales rep with little clue about how to deal with grief-stricken patrons. The body of the play is then taken up by three awkwardly interweaving monologues building to a very predictable end twist. The saving grace of this piece are the nice characterizations by Rachel Frawley, Sarah Frey, Samantha Higgins & Maria Liatis.

LIFE IS SHORT by James Beck (Grade: B)

Interweaving through the entire show are some short vignettes showing a grieving (and pregnant) woman being given a tour of the funeral parlour. Although the episodes seem a tad pointless and go nowhere in particular, I did like the gentle characterizations and performances by James Beck and Emily Quarterone. It is a nice character study that succeeds in pulling all the various plays together. (One nitpick – I may not be an expert, but Ms. Quarterone didn’t seem to be nearly “pregnant enough” to justify the sudden-labor climax of the piece.)

EVERYBODY TALKIN’ BOUT HEAVEN by Jonathan S.E. Perkins (Grade: B+)

In this nicely staged piece, Betty Mitchell and Barbara Washington play a (sorta-semi) spoiled widow and her former maid, meeting after many years at the funeral of Ms. Mitchell’s husband. Through the course of the play, the widow learns more about her husband than she really wanted to know, and the two ladies build towards a real friendship based on much more than their former employee/servant dynamic. This was one of my favorite plays of the colelction.

SAM IN THE BOX by David Marshall Silverman (Grade: C-)

In a play much too reminiscent of the recent movie “Get Low,” a television executive tries to stage his own funeral, just so he can hear what people say about him. Lee Buechele is wonderful as the exec, but he is paired with a young actor who does little to get below the surface of the funeral director character – this makes the final character reversal seemingly out of left field. Overall, a cynical and depressing exercise.


At his father’s funeral, a young man ponders whether it’s better to live a short and exciting life or a long and dull one. He is seemingly motivated by his father’s passing, and wants to avoid the sort of “dull” life lived by his father. The problem is, the way his father’s life is described is anything but dull. The character seems to be more interested in fame than in having a well-lived life, and this gives the piece a contrived feel. I did like the performances, though, especially Richard Blair’s “Mr. Fate” and Amy Cain’s doting wife (which may have exacerbated the problem – how can life with this woman EVER be dull?).

KEYLESS ENTRY by Raymond Fast (GRADE: B+)

In another favorite (and another entry into more non-traditional plotting), we see some after-death shenanigans involving the still-living. Kudos to Judith Beasley, Joe McLaughlin, and Michael Stamm for keeping me guessing as to just who is dead and who is alive. Never mind that the story seemingly contradicts the “Life is Short” theme of the entire show.


This was probably the most cynical piece of the entire show. When a porn kingpin is murdered, his few relations (you can’t call them “loved ones”) gather to ponder who could have killed him, when they are joined by rough-looking stranger. A totally distasteful piece slightly leavened by some funny moments by actors Lory Cox, Bob Smith, Michael J. Tarver, and Kenneth Wigley.

FINAL ARRANGEMENTS by Daniel Carter Brown (No Grade)

I can’t really review this one because it featured my lovely and talented spouse, Barbara. Two cousins try to “send off” a beloved aunt as cheaply as possible, with some help from a kindly and eccentric funeral manager. Carolyn Choe, Chris Sawyer, and Barbara Rudy are featured.

THE FALSE FUNERAL by Daniel Carter Brown (Grade: C)

Another exercise in cynicism, as a couple fakes the husband’s death in order to escape debts. Instead, the wife learns a few secrets her husband would rather she never knew, and the plan falls to pieces. We’re then left with a fuzzy and pointless is-it-really-over-now type of ending. The cast does what they can and are fine all around, but the piece left a really bad taste in my mouth

THE PROFESSIONAL by Corey-Jan Albert (GRADE: B-)

An eccentric woman tries to revive the old “professional mourner” profession, with expected results. Jane Bass and Laura King give very good performances in what is essentially a one-joke sketch that goes on for a bit too long.

And that’s pretty much it. I have two main problems with the collection as a whole, which really boil down to the same issue. First, all these plays take a comic approach to death and funerals. Two different writers try to make us laugh by showing us excessively over-the-top and insincere wailing, and only one chooses to show a mourner feeling some actual grief. Worse, in fully half the pieces (five), the “departed” is depicted as less-than-savory, deserving no grief whatsoever (or even no feeling other than a “glad he’s gone” relief – and in these five plays, the departed is ALWAYS male).

My second problem is a feeling “sameness” about the collection. Death and funerals and grief are topics brimming with potential, with possibilities of variety of tone of subject, of emotional depth. In fact, only one of the plays (the episodic “Life is Short” even hints at the theme supposedly connecting them all – death comes to us all and life is for embracing and for living – a theme that can really resonate in the right hands).

Both of these problems could have been overcome with a little more editorial control in the compilation. Perhaps the writers should have gotten together while their works were still in the planning stages to plan overall strategy. Maybe then a few of them would have chosen different approaches.

As it stands, we’re left with a whole lot of work, a number of very good performances, and a few laughs, but it all adds up to significantly less than the sum of its parts. We’re left with a few funny sketches about death and grief, and, I’m afraid that makes for a less-than-satisfactory theatre experience.

-- Brad Rudy (

No Tears from This Onion
by playgoer
Sunday, June 12, 2011
"Life Is Short" is a collection of ten short plays, all revolving around memorial services. As with any production, technical details, direction, writing, and performances all add to the impact. Unless the elements are evenly balanced and of consistently high quality, the production will suffer. In this case, only Sean Casey's "The Achilles Plan" brings all the elements together in a way that truly delights. The writing is sharp, to the point, entertaining, and amusing, with performances by Richard Blair, Daniel Carter Brown, and Amy Cain bringing energetic life to the three distinct characters. Direction by Judith Beasley keeps the action moving right up to the final twist of the plot.

None of the plays have any real technical problems, although lighting is sometimes a bit iffy here and there. The problems come about mainly from uneven performances and scripts that don't hold interest throughout. Many seem to drag on a bit too long. There are no scripts, however, that don't leave at least some vestige of a positive impact. "New Age Farewells, Inc." by Susan M. Steadman has a clever, near-future premise. "Life is Short" by James Beck is heartfelt, if pretty low-key. "Everybody Talkin' 'Bout Heaven" by Jonathan S. E. Perkins is a charming character study of a widow and her former servant. "Sam in the Box" by David Marshall Silverman is written in a way that could provide some real bite. "Keyless Entry" by Raymond Fast takes a novel approach to the divide between live and dead. "A Fond Farewell When Everest Fell" provides the (largely unrealized) opportunity for interplay of an intriguing collection of characters. "Final Arrangements" by David L. Fisher shows great heart at a cut-rate funeral home. "The False Funeral" by Daniel Carter Brown takes a hackneyed premise and sketches it out without extraneous detail. "The Professional" by Corey-Jan Albert takes the 19th century occupation of professional mourner and translates it to a would-be modern profession. The variety of approaches is pleasing overall.

There are several good casts. Betty Mitchell and Barbara Washington work well together in "Everybody Talkin' 'Bout Heaven." Judith Beasley, Joe McLaughlin, and Michael Stamm combine sexiness, humor, and naturalness in a winning combination in "Keyless Entry." Carolyn Choe makes Mrs. Hobbs the most fully realized character in the plays in "Final Arrangements," and is ably supported by Barbara Rudy and Chris Sawyer. I was also fond of the understated work of Chris Rushing in "Sam in the Box" and Kenneth Wigley in "A Fond Farewell When Everest Fell."

All the direction is competent, although Phillip Justman was not able to make the somewhat overwrought ending of "The False Funeral" ring true. Set design by David Fisher is lovely and appropriate, although some set changes seem to be superfluous, probably due to directors' assumptions for how the set would appear for their particular pieces. Still, "Life Is Short" is a pleasing couple of hours of original theatre. This is a fine addition to the Onion Man Productions' string of one-acters. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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