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Keep It Legal

a Short Play Festival
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Various

COMPANY : Onion Man Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 4465

SHOWING : May 30, 2013 - June 09, 2013

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A collection of short plays by local playwrights that have fun bending the rules!


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Inbreeding
by playgoer
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
3.5
Onion Man Productions’ "Keep It Legal" collection of short plays shares a group of people variously taking on writing, directing, acting, and stage managing chores in a bewildering set of combinations. Perhaps that’s why the evening has a slightly claustrophic feel to it, despite the vaunted variety of selections.

First up is Daphne Mintz’s "Bitter and Better," which is split into four sections in four different town office locales around a small town, as newcomer Elizabeth (Mary Claire Klooster) tries to deal with the challenges of moving to a new place. She is beset by bitter on-the-make Roy (Allen Stone) and lackadaisical town employee Cora (Diedra Jones). The situation is cute, with charming twists in each section, ending on a somewhat silly note. Ms. Klooster is quite good under James Beck’s direction, adding a bit of dimension lacking in the other two performances.

Next up is "Great Expectations in the Office of Nostalgia" by Hilary King and directed by Christopher Rushing. It’s the best of the bunch, sparked by energetic, appealing performances by the cast of four: Lory Cox as a downsized employee, Matthew Bass as her future-obsessed replacement, Maggie Blaeser as a new would-be bride with cold feet, and Joe McLaughlin as her would-be mate (although he had engaged a computer service just to find a roommate, not a spouse). The story allows the audience’s sympathies to shift from character to character, ending with a satisfying set of pairings. It’s just long enough and just varied enough to remain engaging throughout. It’s the jewel one searches for in these collections of ten-minute plays.

After that, the evening starts going downhill. Nick Boretz’s "Re: The E.T. and Tralee at the BP" is a slight piece about a beerhall "dancer" (Karla Stamps) consulting a lawyer (Glenn Allen) about an alien abduction. Ms. Stamps is fine in her role, although not as much of a bimbo as she could be, and James Beck’s direction keeps the stage active. Mr. Allen seems to be giving a film performance, though, without the projection needed on the stage, even at such a small venue.

Following that (and segment two of "Bitter and Better") is Paige Steadman’s "Moon Over Tinyville." It too is a slight piece, taking place in a barricaded police station on the evening of a full moon in a small town that apparently is going berserk with werewolves and/or were-kittens. Dre Camacho gives a very good, manic performance as the fantastical were-kitten, and Cathryn Johns attempts to add some back-story to her grounded character. The muddled direction of Erin Leigh Bushko makes John Stephen King’s performance seem to come from a third work altogether. It’s unsatisfying when a director’s work does not clarify a somewhat cryptic piece, but instead makes it seem half-finished.

Jeremy Clark’s "Earlvis" starts the second act. It’s a somewhat static, lifeless rendition of a cute premise (reminiscent of the plot of the flop musical sequel "Bring Back Birdie") in which a man claiming to be an elderly Elvis Presley is interviewed by a mental health consultant. It’s filled with capable actors, but director Michael Jared Tarber doesn’t seem to have inspired them to do their best work (although he does coax a relatively nuanced performance from John Stephen King).

After that, the second act moves from comedy to drama in performance style, although the premises of the pieces could easily justify more comedic approaches. Dre Camacho’s "The Indifference of Poseidon" deals with an irate man demanding to pay his water bill in cash. Comedy? Nope. Kerrie Doty’s "You’re Not as Important as You Think You Are" tells the story of a student radical turned Marxist professor whose FBI file isn’t as extensive as he expected. Comedy? Nope. Christopher Rushing’s "One Stop Heart Shop" follows a set of robot-like creatures who experiment with having full human hearts. Comedy? Well, a little, but more in intent than in actuality.

The terrific, if grandiose, title "The Indifference of Poseidon" somewhat overwhelms the content of the piece. Karla Stamps is quite good as a victimized office employee, and James Beck’s kinetic direction takes command of the stage. Marcus Emel starts out with a threatening intensity that works well until his part gets a bit long-winded and veers into mythology at the end. This is one of those short plays that goes on a tad too long.

Director Daniel Carter Brown gets good performances out of the cast of the uninventively titled "You’re Not as Important as You Think You Are." Stacy Bowers and Glenn Allen give contained, film-like performances, while James Connor gives the playlet a bit of the scenery-chewing intensity it needs. Adelle Drahos’ performance as a receptionist rings true to the very end, when her request to take the rest of the day off due to "stress" falls in the middle ground between sincerity and attempting to hoodwink her boss. The director should have insisted on a clear motivation. But then, the director chose to drain comedy out of the script, making it less entertaining than it should have been.

Director Erin Leigh Bushko tramples over the heart of "One Stop Heart Shop." Dre Camacho is miscast and mis-costumed in his role, looking nothing like a characterless employee. Maggie Blaeser and Patrick Young are well-suited to their roles, but are directed to show too much emotion before they get their hearts. And leaving a physical heart in full view on a countertop when characters enter and say "there’s no heart left" is confusing, to say the least. The play drags on in this production, turning what could be a charming, sweet tale into a so-so moment of theatre.

The set, by James Beck and Daniel Carter Brown, is an attractive office environment with an angled corner flat that moves from one side to the other during the act break. A couple of chairs and desks roll from spot to spot for the different playlets. It’s attractive, but somewhat insubstantial when a piece of furniture wiggles instead of staying put. Daniel Carter Brown’s lighting is fine, but not sufficiently evocative in spots calling for special effects.

Onion Man Productions’ Summer Harvest 2013 show supposedly had such a surfeit of submissions that a second session of playlets was scheduled for performances mid-week. It would be interesting to see if they have a more pleasing selection. "Keep It Legal" has its moments, but overall is a disappointment, lacking the excitement of new voices giving full-throated renditions of engaging works. There’s a bit of sameness to the evening, as if all the scripts had been redacted by the same artistic sensibility. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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