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A Weekend of One Acts Plays!
a New Play
by jpbeck

COMPANY : Onion Man Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3265

SHOWING : January 15, 2009 - January 16, 2009



A collection of five One-Act plays from Atlanta and Chicago playwrights. Plays: The Attendant by James Beck, Bluethroat by David Fisher, Bobbie’s Book Club by Nick Boretz, Duck: Two Breasts, Sauteed by David Kravitz, and Therapy by Raymond Fast and Jackie Verdi

Managing Director James Beck
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Entertaining variety
by playgoer
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed Onion Man Productions' evening of one-act plays. The evening was structured well, with each new one-acter better than the last, resulting in a favorable overall impression. The evening started peculiarly, with David Kravitz's unusually seasoned "Duck: Two Breasts, Sauteed," but ended spectacularly, with David Fisher's intriguing, touching "Bluethroat."

As is always the case, production values, direction, and acting talent have at least as much to do with an audience's enjoyment as the script they serve. In an evening devoted to new works, these factors can throw off a strict comparison of the distinct works. Suffice it to say that each work had its merits.

"Duck: Two Breasts, Sauteed" played with incredible energy, but had numerous production problems. Asha Ahelia as Micki and Doug Cashell as Archie were supposed to be brother and sister? No family resemblance was noted, and this casting caused unnecessary confusion at the start of the work. The set -- a bench and three beach chairs -- didn't seem to invoke any locale that was suggested by the work itself. Asha Ahelia was directed to act in a suggestive manner that didn't come at all naturally to her, and the closing line of the play was such a bomb no one applauded. While this play had been previously produced, in Chicago, it was the sore thumb that stuck out in Onion Man Productions' evening.

"The Attendant," by James Beck, was a more interesting work. Its set was more in keeping with the stated locale (a hospital reception area), although the grouped chairs suggesting waiting room benches proved a bit of an obstacle for Lynne Jenson's over-active blocking as Maureen. An interesting, if slight, work, the play was marred by performance styles that didn't quite mesh. Lynne Jenson came across as borderline manic, while David Fisher as Bobby wasn't quite depressive enough. A more naturalistic style might have served the play better.

"Bobbie's Book Club" had too complicated a set for the shortness of its running time. The three playing areas (kitchen stove, dining table, living room) were each given short shrift, although a throw-away line about crystal glassware was nicely underscored by a pass-by "clink" a little later. The play set up a balanced dynamic among straightlaced Kelly (Debbie McLaughlin), free-thinker Ruth (Sophie Gatins), and peace-keeper Bobbie (Kim Bennett), all
members of a church book club. The situation didn't quite ring true, and the forward progress of the plot seemed hurried in spots. The play seemed compressed and outlined instead of fully developed. The performances were all good, with the highlight for me being Debbie McLaughlin's true, confused reaction to the hint of lesbianism (a theme touched on earlier in "Duck").

Act two started with a bang in "Therapy," a work by Raymond Fast and Jacki Verde in which a physical therapy session turns into a different kind of therapy session between a pair of exes. The set was a bit specialized (parallel bars, wheelchair, massage table), but it was all needed and all used well. The performances were fun and energetic. You know you're in good hands
when the mere phrasing of "parallel bars" gets a genuine laugh. Raymond Fast's work tends toward a sit-com style, but it can work very well, as was the case here. Tanya Carroll's performance as Tracy was spot-on, and Bob Smith as Stuart did a wonderful job of keeping weight off his "bad" leg.

The closing play was "Bluethroat," with a pitch-perfect performance by William Szymanski as Gus. I'd almost say that Mr. Szymanski WAS Gus. David Fisher has written an intriguing Southwest tale filled with quiet lyricism, and the folksy style of Gus carried the first part of the play singlehandedly. The introduction of Lynne Jenson as the ornithologist Zelda brought a slightly off-kilter rhythm that seemed to be a case of the production letting down the play. The simple set of a fabric tent and a few campsite odds and ends worked splendidly.

The city of Norcross has been renovating the theatre space of which Lionheart Theatre is the resident company, and the new stage area worked well. Contiguous dressing rooms and a bit of a backstage helped the five distinct productions move relatively smoothly from one to the next. Directors James Beck, Tanya Carroll, Jason Caldwell, and Barbara Hawkins-Scott kept the pace up in all productions, so the overall impression was of nimble variety. Onion Man Productions has put on an enjoyable weekend of varied, entertaining one-act plays. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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