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July Summer Harvest 2016, The Lakeside Plays

a 10-Minute Plays
by jpbeck

COMPANY : Onion Man Productions [WEBSITE]
ID# 4916

SHOWING : July 14, 2016 - July 31, 2016



A collection of 10-minute plays all sharing the same setting, a dock and a lake or the back porch of a lake house. Lots of fun to be had!

"Dead or Alive 2" by James Beck, Laura King and Natasha Patel
"One Word" by Constance Marse
"The Birthday Present" by Suzanne Bailie
"The Golden Years" by Joe Starzyk
"SodaPop" by Arika Larson
"A Ravens Roots" by Jeremy Clark
"Cruise Director Samson" by Emmy Dixon
"Summervale" by Janie Young

Cast Casey Cudmore
Cast Tracey Egan
Cast Carmen Hijar
Cast Jerry Jobe
Cast Tyree Jones
Cast Janesh Joseph
Cast Stephanie McFarlane
Cast Debbie McLaughlin
Cast Paul Milliken
Cast Melissa Rainey
Cast Crystal Robertson
Cast Mike Stevens
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Diminishing Returns
by playgoer
Friday, July 22, 2016
Onion Man Productions’ second edition of "Harvest 2016, The Lakeside Plays" has some strong material and some weaker material, structured so that the peak arrives just before the act break. Since all the pieces are well-acted and well-directed, the cumulative effect is overwhelmingly positive.

The evening starts with the four-part "Dead or Alive 2" by James Beck, Laura King, and Natasha Patel. James Beck’s direction gets nice performances out of Tracey Egan, Paul Milliken, and Stephanie McFarlane as two cops investigating a rash of suicide drownings at a lakeside and a resident on the lake suffering from stress-induced cataplexy. Sexual tension runs high in one episode, with a twist ending before the blackout, paying big dividends in this middle portion of the "Dead or Alive" plays, to be concluded next month.

"One Word" by Constance Marse involves a marital spat over a missed anniversary. It’s cleverly constructed, building nicely to its happy ending. An energetic performance by Jenish Joseph sparks the action, and James Beck has directed the dialogue nimbly, so that Carmen Hijar’s word association game points out the reason for the squabble. Nice, active blocking also helps the show move along, although it seems just a tad leisurely in its middle portion.

Jeremy Clark’s "A Raven’s Roots" is nicely blocked by Gregory Fitzgerald, giving lots to do for Tyree Jones as an escaped convict and for Melissa Rainey and Casey Cudmore as former TV host Mena the Ballerina and her niece. The focus is on the relationship between Mud (Mr. Jones) and his lowlife girlfriend, previously known as "Raven" (the delightful Ms. Cudmore). The situation is a bit schematic, a bit absurdist, and involves the underbelly of society, but it all goes down very easily, helped by casting that doesn’t dwell on the unsavory.

The first act ends with Joe Starzyk’s "The Golden Years." Tanya Caldwell has pulled stellar performances out of Mike Stevens and Debbie McLaughlin as a long-married couple whose casually-mentioned split turns into a comic revelation of nefarious past activities. The play is sharp, funny, and to the point, leaving the audience laughing with delight.

"SodaPop," by Arika Larson, starts the second act on a more serious note. A Pomeranian named SodaPop has died, and its foul-mouthed drunkard of an owner (Jerry Jobe) is visited by his daughter (Crystal Robertson), bringing up issues involving her daddy’s girl of a sister, who died in childhood and left SodaPop in his care. The writing is somewhat muddled, initially giving the impression that an animal smaller than a dog has died and that a wife’s death or departure is at the crux of the father-daughter dysfunction. Janie Young’s direction coaxes a lovely performance out of Ms. Robertson, with a nice contrast to the unlovable character of her father.

Janie Young, director of "SodaPop," has written the next play in sequence, "Summervale," about a woman committing her mother to a lakeside institution. The mother has visions of a dead friend, which director James Beck presages by having the friend lurk around the edges of the set before finally speaking. It’s all pretty melodramatic and foreboding, but Marianne Geyer, Chris Kontopidis, and Caitlynn Silvius give nuanced performances.

Suzanne Bailie’s "The Birthday Present" is another play that teases a bit too much about the situation we’re seeing before revealing much about it. Even by the end, it’s not crystal-clear as to all of what has happened. Even so, Patrick Young has created a good-looking, smoothly-moving production with an assured performance by Melissa Rainey and a brave one by Kelly Roarke.

The evening ends with Emmy Dixon’s silly "Cruise Director Samson." Samson (Patrick Young) is a long-haired redneck competing with ecology-conscious Delilah (Chris Kontopidis) to give swamp tours to Okefenokee visitors (Jerry Jobe as the quintessential camera-toting tourist and Carmen Hijar as his lesbian daughter). The verbal play between this Samson and Delilah quickly becomes tiresome, and the ending has a deus ex machina feel that doesn’t ring true under Gregory Fitzgerald’s direction. It’s a lively ending to the evening, but not a particularly satisfying one.

Set design by J. Beck, Patrick Young, and Cathy Seith is a holdover from last month’s production and still works well in this intimate venue. James Beck’s and Gregory Fitzgerald’s sound design is pleasing and effective. Costumes and props, by a bevy of contributors, show an impressive variety. Lighting design, however (by James Beck, Patrick Young, and Paige Steadman), pits a hot area center right with moonlike shading up center that frequently has actors moving in and out of the light. None of the plays require special lighting effects, so an even wash of light across the stage might have been a better choice.

The evening is enjoyable as a whole, although not all of its short plays are ones I’m likely to remember. Joe Starzyk’s "The Golden Years" will stick in my mind, though, and I’m eager to see some resolution of the "Dead or Alive" saga next month. Kudos to all the actors and directors for putting together an entertaining series of productions. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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