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Playing in the Dark

a Short Play Festival
by Daniel Carter Brown, Kate Guyton, Daniel Guyton, Raymond Fast, James Walsh

COMPANY : Out of Box Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Artisan Resource Center
ID# 4579

SHOWING : May 09, 2014 - May 18, 2014



"Playing in the Dark" features original works by playwrights Raymond Fast, Daniel Guyton, Kate Guyton, James Walsh and Dan Brown. In addition, original music was composed for the production by local composers and musicians Paige Garwood and Chris Owenby.

"Playing in the Dark" is a collection of short, provocative stories all revolving around the same theme - if confronted by one of the many faces of tragedy, what would you do? Would you do what’s right? Could you? Character is most clearly revealed by the way one responds to life’s challenges. These are eight tragic tales of hope, redemption, and enlightenment.

Daffodils Daniel Guyton
Ghosts in the Field, and Tattered Suitca Kate Guyton
Director Jerry Jobe
Bernadette, Claudia, Leah Emily Arvidson
Gregory, Boy, Papa, Justin Mario Avani
Grayson, Davis, Michael, Leonard Matthew Busch
Meredith, Rain, Mama Lauren Coleman
Chris, Jeremy Ian Gibson
Mrs. E, Raven, Millie Teresa Harris
The Soldier Jerry Jobe
Edgar, Dad Andy Ward
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Playing in the Spotlight
by playgoer
Sunday, May 18, 2014
"Playing in the Dark" combines three previously-seen short plays with five new ones to create an evening of dark-tinged entertainment. Eight actors populate all roles in the eight plays, and all are under the direction of a single director. This gives the evening a more cohesive feel than is usually the case with local short play collections.

First up is Dan Brown’s "The Powell Plot," about a brother and sister plotting what sort of burial plot their disapproving, recently dead father deserves. The play is basically a porch conversation between Grayson (Matthew Busch) and Meredith (Lauren Coleman) in which the sins of the father are revealed and reviled. It’s a bit mean-spirited, but goes down easy due to the fine acting.

Next is Kate Guyton’s "Ghosts in the Field." This is a niftily told story in which two paranormal researchers (Emily Anne Arvidson and Ian Gibson) escort an elderly woman (Teresa Harris) to a spot at the edge of the woods where a double murder occurred of her beau (Mario Avani) and her beau’s best friend (Matthew Busch). The interaction of the ghosts and humans is deftly staged, and the full implications of the story are deftly revealed. The equipment and performances of the researchers are a bit cumbersome, and there was an apparent line glitch in the performance I saw, so this was the roughest of the productions, but it is still an impressive bit of playwriting.

Up third comes "Daffodils," by Daniel Guyton. This play seemed overly long and overly opaque to me. At least part of this was due to the fuzzy diction of Ian Gibson, playing a man who obviously had been traumatized near a field of daffodils and whose blood had spilled there. The back story of his fiancée, played by Lauren Coleman, was clear, although it came a little late and didn’t mesh particularly well with his back story. The acting was good in emotional terms, but volumes were too low even for the tiny venue.

Last in the first act is Raymond Fast’s "Monster." This pairs an imprisoned murderer (Andy Ward) with his victim (Mario Avani), bringing in his wife (Teresa Harris) near the end. The telling of the story is the main draw here, with lots of unison speaking and overlapped speech. It’s a viscerally exciting piece.

The second act begins with Kate Guyton’s "Tattered Suitcase," which slowly reveals itself as a Holocaust tale, with a daughter (Emily Anne Arvidson) being sent to America by her mother (Lauren Coleman) and father (Mario Avani). The slow reveal is perhaps a bit too straightforward, but it ends with a powerful final image.

Following this is another tale involving Jewish emigration, Raymond Fast’s "Family Tree." A father (Andy Ward) tells his son (Matthew Busch) unexpected information that the dead mother had kept secret during her lifetime. It’s a well enough told story, but its resonance comes primarily from its positioning after "Tattered Suitcase" rather than from its intrinsic merits. It even shares a set with "Tattered Suitcase."

Next-to-last is James Walsh’s "Chasing Satan," a monologue delivered by Jerry Jobe as a cowardly Civil War soldier who attempts to redeem his cowardice. I think the script could be sharpened somewhat to point up the cowardice before it becomes a plot point, but it plays well. The lighting design of Laura Demain, effective throughout, is most impressive in this playlet.

The show ends with Raymond Fast’s somewhat sentimental "Waiting for Leonard." The evening is touted as "eight tragic tales of hope, redemption, and enlightenment," but this is the only one that truly tugs at the heartstrings and brings a happy tear to the eye. It’s nicely performed by Teresa Harris as an elderly woman on a park bench, Emily Anne Arvidson as a woman bringing her (invisible) daughter to the park, Mario Avani as her husband, and Matthew Busch as the long-awaited Leonard. Blocking is a bit of a problem, though, since it has Ms. Arvidson repeatedly treading over a section of the stage where squirrels are supposedly being fed by the elderly woman.

Other than that, the staging is quite nice. Raymond Fast has designed scenic and sound elements that nicely delineate each story and that are changed with acceptable speed. The sets could have been a great deal simpler, but the variety creates a unique world for each piece. This works remarkably well with the consistent direction and consistently fine acting that unite the pieces to create an impressive evening of thoughtful entertainment. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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