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Women’s Shorts

a Short Play Festival
by Marki Shalloe,Suzanne Bailie,Chris Shaw Swanson,Mary Steelsmith,Keely L. Herrick,Sherry Camp Paulson,Starina Johnson,Suehyla El-Attar,Kate Leslie

COMPANY : Out of Box Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Artisan Resource Center
ID# 5206

SHOWING : January 12, 2018 - January 20, 2018



A selection of short plays by women over 40 featuring women over 40

Director Carolyn Choe
Cast Eric Burleson
Cast Annie Cook
Cast Rial Ellsworth
Cast Kate Guyton
Cast Eileen Howard
Cast Stacy King
Cast Jennifer Lee
Cast Betty Mitchell
Cast Bryn Striepe
Cast Emily Tyrybon
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Including a Red Thong
by playgoer
Sunday, January 14, 2018
"Women’s Shorts" presents nine short plays by nine female writers and directed by three women, featuring a cast of eight women (each of whom appear in at least two of the plays) and two men. While everything is from a mature female perspective, the show can be enjoyed by anyone.

Here’s a pre-show game: try to locate the 11 images on the program cover from among the 80 8"x10" photos arrayed on the walls of Carolyn Choe’s set. Some of the images are headshots; some are action shots from past productions. Photos of the late Jo Howarth are featured. (The Jo Howarth Noonan Foundation for the Performing Arts receives special thanks in the program.) Once you’ve succeeded in the game, let the show begin!

The set consists of the photo-strewn walls noted above, with a kitchen peninsula center and a doorway stage right. Five black boxes are used for seating, with a couple of other set pieces brought on for individual plays, plus a pretty extensive array of props. Sound design (by Carolyn Choe) isn’t as extensive as it could be; lighting design (by Bradley Rudy) is a little more active than it need be.

First up is Marki Shalloe’s "Without Issue," which comically pits a bartender (the delightfully breezy Annie Cook) against a woman (the delightfully defensive Stacy King) whose doctor has just informed her that she is menopausal. The script is full of funny lines, and Kayleigh Mikell has directed the action and actors to point up all the funny bits. This starts the evening off on a very promising note.

The promising start is followed by probably the least successful of the short plays. Suzanne Bailie’s "Mel and Mona" shows us two sisters (Jennifer Lee and Kate Guyton) cleaning up after some murky activity the previous night. Carolyn Choe’s direction doesn’t bring the play to life, and the production doesn’t fully dispel the murk of the script. This is a fairly sour show, and most of its attempted comedy falls flat.

Chris Shaw Swanson’s "Something about Tex" comes next. This is a memory play narrated by a woman (Emily Kalat) who recreates moments from her history with high school BFF Tex (Bryn Striepe), including flirtation with a boy (Erik Burleson). Kayleigh Mikell’s direction doesn’t succeed in having Ms. Striepe truly capture the behavior of a high school rebel, but Ms. Kalat carries the show deftly, leading to a bittersweet ending.

Mary Steelsmith’s "Happy and Gay" shows two church ladies of a certain age (Betty Mitchell and Eileen Howard) decorating the fellowship hall after a gay wedding. We think they’re clueless and/or disdainful about the liberal changes to their church, but the ending supplies a twist. Carolyn Choe’s direction gets fine performances out of both actresses. The script combines humor and sentimentality, but seems a little clunky in getting to its final moment.

Keely L. Herrick’s "Surprise" ends the first act. This prop-heavy show introduces us to two friends (Emily Kalat and Jennifer Lee) decorating the apartment of their friend Melissa (Stacy King) for a surprise birthday party. When it comes out that Melissa has arranged for a surprise of her own (Erik Burleson), comedy explodes. Kayleigh Mikell has directed her talented cast brilliantly to capture the comedy with movement-filled blocking.

Sherry Camp Paulson’s "TMI" starts the second act by placing together two middle-aged friends (Annie Cook and Betty Mitchell) in a lingerie store along with a young home-wrecker (Bryn Striepe). Director Holly Tatem gets spot-on performances from each cast member, letting the charmingly obvious plot flow naturally, delivering on every bit of set-up in a satisfying final moment.

Starina Johnson’s "Vice" wraps a disquisition on infidelity in a dialogue between a married woman (Jennifer Lee) and her one-night stand (Rial Ellsworth). This seems less a play than a treatise, and Holly Tatem’s direction can’t salvage much sympathy for the female lead in a fairly static staging.

Suehyla El-Attar’s "Getting There" shows us a mother (Eileen Howard) being driven to a doctor’s appointment by her contentious daughter (Stacy King), whose conversation with her mother is interspersed with inner monologues. Bradley Rudy’s lighting shifts between dim and brighter lighting to distinguish between the dialogue and monologues, but the rapid alternation becomes distracting. Sound design could have enhanced the show by adding sound effects associated with the miming of car operation, but Carolyn Choe has directed the show to mine its emotional depths while not slighting the script’s comedic aspects. Eileen Howard shines in this play, her demeanor and wig making her a totally different character from her role in "Happy and Gay."

Kate Leslie’s "Ashes to Dust" also takes place in a car, as a mother (Emily Kalat) and her daughters (Kate Guyton and Bryn Striepe) depart from a wake for the mother’s father. The ages of the actresses don’t make a lot of sense in terms of the script, but lines and line readings readily make it clear that Ms. Kalat is the mother, Ms. Striepe is the free-wheeling daughter, and Ms. Guyton is the more straitlaced daughter. Director Holly Tatem has blocked the show to have one daughter (Ms. Guyton) in the back seat of the car with the other two actresses up front, resulting in obstructed views of Ms. Guyton to some members of the audience. Nevertheless, she has gotten terrific performances out of all the cast, allowing the sentiment and comedy to flow freely from a script that accurately reflects family dynamics at the time of a patriarch’s passing. It’s a delightful way to end a satisfying evening of theatre. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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