SHOWING : June 08, 2017 - June 25, 2017
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Summer Harvest - The Corporate Collection
“A collection of short plays that have fun at corporate America’s expense”
June 8th - 25th,
Thursday – Saturday 7:30pm
Sunday 3:00 pm
$16 general admission
Onion Man Productions
5522 New Peachtree Rd
Suite #111 (Plaza del Sol)
Chamblee, GA 30341
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Sunday, June 25, 2017 ||
2017’s "Summer Harvest" short play festival at Onion Man Productions collects eight plays that take place in a corporate setting. As is usual in these collections, some are good and/or intriguing and others start with an intriguing concept that doesn’t go much of anywhere. With different playwrights, directors, and actors in each play, the quality can vary markedly.|
The set features a conference room table that seems to have been constructed for lightness rather than sturdiness. The remainder of the set (constructed by James Beck, Greg Fitzgerald, Melissa Rainey, and Sarah Patterson) consists of a back wall, chairs, and a couple of other pieces of office furniture. Lighting, designed by James Beck, features a nice backlit effect initially and otherwise illuminates the action nicely, with some fadeout effects to put the button on scenes. The configuration of the set pieces changes for each play, adding setup time that gives phone-addicted audience members time to check their cell phones during the scene changes.
The show starts with a play that has been split into four portions. Bruce Shearer’s "Beautiful Balloons" introduces us to a balloon artist and his manager, both of whom have dreams of a bright future. It’s a slight piece without much of a payoff, and director Kathryn O’Shea uses a number of blackouts to separate monologues from dialogue. Spencer Rich and Brooke Schlosser give fine performances, but no favors are done by the splitting of the show (both by the blackouts and by the segmentation).
Judd Lear Silverman’s "The Boss Is Out" follows, with Akia Sembly playing an office worker who has knocked out her boss following an incident of sexual harassment. Most of the action shows her interplay with a co-worker played by Bridget Shepard, as they try to determine the implications of the situation. Jeffrey Liu also has a tiny part as another co-worker. Erika Ragsdale has directed the play with a nice variety of motion and emotion, leading to a pleasing twist ending.
James Beck’s "Europa" is next. A boss and two underlings (Linzmarie Schulz, Julia Weeks, and Cat Roche) discuss the boss’s upcoming vacation trip to outer space. There’s too much exposition giving facts about Jupiter’s moon Europa, and some very clunky double entendres that relate to the plot point of the boss’s ex-husband having a competing business. It has all the hallmarks of an underdeveloped sketch, and director James Beck doesn’t create a consistent tone, letting it vary between lame comedy and dramedy. The performances are thoroughly acceptable, but the actors aren’t given compelling characters to portray.
Ron Frankel’s "Retirement Party" ends the first act. Corey-Jan Albert’s blocking creates a cramped-looking environment as the prophet Abraham (James Connor) and saints Joan (Merle Westbrook) and Nicholas (David Hanna) are ushered into a conference room (by Abby Christophel) for a meeting with God (Celeste Campbell). The situation is that God has decided to retire, and that’s about as far as the plot takes us. Costumes and performances are good, but James Beck’s sound design doesn’t immediately suggest a heavenly chorale. The first act doesn’t leave much of an impression.
Things improve in the second act. The first piece, Gregory Fitzgerald’s "One Last Try," is beautifully acted by Erik Dillard and Amanda Vick as a divorcing couple. Robert Winstead has directed them in a dramatic interplay of differing viewpoints. The strong character arc for the female leaves a lasting impression. It’s thoroughly professional in tone and execution.
David Allan Dodson’s "A Firing Affair" also features wonderful performances under Gregory Fitzgerald’s direction. Sadye Elizabeth portrays a businesslike human resources director who is confronted by an uncontrollable employee (Fred Galyean) she must fire. They have wonderful chemistry, and the comedy of the piece is enhanced by Erik Dillard’s performance as an officious underling (a performance entirely different from his performance in the previous play, but equally noteworthy). The play has a plot with a pleasing beginning, middle, and end, leaving a sweet hint of romantic optimism.
Michael Diprima’s "Life’s a Bitch" shows us an agent (Nikki Greenfield) who must deal with an animal client and his human owner (Robert Drake and Nick Suwalski in the program, although understudy replacement may have occurred at the performance I saw). Director Paige Steadman has given the animal character a lot of dog-like characteristics, as suggested in the script, which makes for some fun physical comedy. The action of the play, though, requires awkward moments in which the agent alternately seems to treat the dog as a dog and then to understand the dog’s speech completely.
"Slick Puppies" by Corey-Jan Albert ends the evening. Director Brandi Kilgore puts a lot of movement into the sitcom-like action, which involves a young couple (Abby Christophel and Ryan Stillings) canoodling semi-dressed in an empty conference room, until interrupted by the big boss (James Connor) and then by the big new prospective client (Gregory Fitzgerald), who manages to appear pants-less. There’s a plot twist involving blackmail for a sexual indiscretion that precipitates the ending and leaves a bit of a bitter taste, although the playwright’s intention seems to be for us to root for the blackmailers. It’s a cute skit with attractive, assured performances, but it doesn’t end the evening strongly.
2017’s short evening of short plays gives local directors and actors a chance to shine, and also highlights the work of several local playwrights. The ultimate star of the evening is Gregory Fitzgerald, whose writing and direction are unsurpassed in the selections, and who also performs in the final play. There’s a lot of talent in evidence, but Mr. Fitzgerald’s triple-threat contributions are what stick in the mind when the evening is over. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
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by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)