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Tapas IV, The Great Divide

a 10-Minute Plays
by Benedict, Bray, Bruna, Freeman, Martin, Shima, Steadman, Whitehorn, Wang,

COMPANY : Academy Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Hapeville Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 5515

SHOWING : June 07, 2019 - June 23, 2019



The Great Divide is a presentation of 10 plays that vary in style from radio drama to absurd comedy! Our shows take on divides in age, class, and even life and death! It is an adventure of the mind and a hilarious run through talk hows and Shakespeare.

Playwright Paige Steadman
Associate Artistic Director/Casting Dire Fracena Byrd
Curator/Director Robert Drake
Director Keith Franklin
Director Lynn A. Hosking
Director Janine Leslie
Director Madeline McCanless
Director Robert Raissle
Director Nancy Riggs
Director Paige Steadman
Intimacy Director Rebecca Botter
Lighting Designer Erica French
Carpenter Liam Irwin
Props Master Fiona Leonard
Assistant Stage Manager Madeline McCanless
Fight Choreographer Nancy Riggs
Fight Choreographer Paige Steadman
Stage Manager Jim Walsh
Cast David Benedict
Cast Rebecca Botter
Cast John Doyle
Cast Natelege El-Shair
Cast Faina Khibkin
Cast Burt Lyons
CHEN Dharma Moreau
Hamlet Kenneth Nance
Cast Allen Stone
Cast Catherine Thomas
Cast Katie Wickline
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Congeries
by playgoer
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Any collection of short plays is bound to have weak and strong entries, especially one with plays by different playwrights and directed by different directors. "Tapas IV" is no exception. At least the order of the plays grows gradually stronger as the evening progresses.

The set, constructed by Jim Walsh, consists of a back wall containing a window stage right and narrow double doors up center. Most entrances and exits, though, are from/to the curtained area off stage left that serves as a backstage area for the actors. Erica French’s lighting design illuminates each play nicely, with a fine special effect at the end of the evening. Robert Drake’s sound design enhances several of the plays. Ladisa Banks’ costumes and Fiona Leonard’s props also add to the impact of the individual plays. Paige Steadman’s fight choreography and Rebecca Botter’s intimacy choreography get less of a workout, but fulfill their needs with aplomb.

The evening starts with a radio play podcast episode from the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, in which David Benedict (the playwright and director) and two females read from a script involving the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The script may change daily; the episode I heard had to do with the Guinness Book of World Records needing to be updated with post-zombie apocalypse records. As a radio play, it’s pretty dull visually to start the show.

Second up is Martha Patterson’s "Hamlet’s Revenge," in which Hamlet’s reactions to demands for revenge from his father’s ghost are supposed to be funny. Under the direction of Robert Drake, this play falls completely flat. It requires fairly detailed knowledge of Shakespeare’s "Hamlet," and could work only with a bravura performance from the Hamlet. Marcus Tabb falls well short of being able to pull it off. Kenneth Nance, Jr. is marvelous as the ghost, and he’s the only redeeming quality of this dreadful selection.

"153" follows, in which Steven Martin’s characters are named 18 (Faina Annabella Khibkin), 45 (Scott Ward), and 90 (Natalie W. Baker). These numbers add up to 153, and that’s about the only thing that ultimately adds up in this baffling play. The acting is terrific under Paige Steadman’s direction, but the reason for these people having to move on from their current location without leaving a mess goes unexplained. Ms. Khibkin is cast as a boy in this show, which throws the sexual dynamic way off and adds to the bafflement.

"Two Artists Trying to Pay Their Bill," by Lucy Wang, is one of those short plays that takes an interesting concept and beats it to death. A restaurant’s owner (the terrific Ryan Cunningham) decides to hike his prices after a five-star review, and musician Chen (Dharma Moreau) and playwright Wang (Kirstin Popper) can’t afford to play their bill, so they propose paying the owner with art. Variations on the proposal seem to go on forever. Director Janine Leslie has gotten dynamic performances out of her cast, but the energy can’t disguise the fact that the play goes on too long.

The first act ends with the first truly effective play of the evening. Frank Shima’s "The Love of the Game" involves baseball. Long-time fans (Allen Stone, Rocia Terry, and Brittany Nicole Timmons) interact in the stands with a newcomer (John Doyle) who has misread his seat ticket. The interactions are interesting and nicely acted, and the script ends on a note that is equally comic and poignant. Director Keith Franklin and the cast hit this one out of the ballpark.

Things look up in the second act, starting with Paige Steadman’s "Amicable." Wedded partners Leda (Natalie W. Baker) and Wati (Natelege el-Shair) are at a government office seeking a divorce, with Katie Wickline as the official attending to them. The twist is that the two are truly in love and committed to one another, but Wati’s mother insists on a church wedding for them, which her church will recognize only if the two people being joined are legally single. The discussions take interesting turns until a satisfactory solution is found. Director Lynn Hosking’s blocking is a little static at times and Ms. el-Shair could use better diction and volume, but the play as a whole works, and works very well.

The delightful "Press Pray" by Seth Freeman follows. A man (John Doyle, as charismatic and natural here as he is in "The Love of the Game") has come to a chapel to pray. But what he gets is menu lists of selections from a voice on high (the unseen Bert Lyons). It’s funny and relatable, wonderfully directed by Fracena Byrd and wonderfully acted. The play could use a bit more heart -- after all, the man has come in with a troubled mind -- but the comedy fires on all cylinders.

John Patrick Bray’s "Buckle" shows a couple of schoolgirls (Faina Annabella Khibkin and Katie Wickline) breaking into a schoolroom to sneak a peak at an upcoming test. It doesn’t start out promisingly, with fingers gripping the muntins that supposedly contain panes of glass, but the acting is quite good, and the script’s analysis of a superficially sweet and cheery poem has some real depth. Nancy Riggs has directed a show that adds to the strength of the second act.

Chloe Whitehorn’s "Vintages" suffers a bit from miscasting and an overall sourness of tone. Catherine Thomas plays an older sister with wrinkles who is trying to convince her younger sister (Elisabeth Allen) not to get plastic surgery. Ms. Thomas fits her role well (although it’s not particularly flattering for a playwright to denigrate a character’s appearance), but Ms. Allen is young -- far from a fading middle-aged beauty with a teenage daughter (Rebecca Botter). As a consequence, the play’s bitter view of divorce and the use of a single male actor (Michael Jackson III) playing both the daughter’s boyfriend and the ex-husband lead to a somewhat muddled perspective. Director Madeline McCanless has gotten generally good performances out of the actors, but the show leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The final play, Lisa Bruna’s "Shaming Ava," is entertaining throughout, but goes on a bit long nevertheless. Ava (Ms. Khibkin again) has come to a TV show promising to shame her for her horrible actions. The problem is that the host (Bert Lyons) and his sidekick (Kenneth Nance, Jr.) don’t consider her actions horrible at all. Bringing soup to a homeless girl -- what’s horrible about that? We get some answers in the course of the play, but they don’t come very quickly. Rob Raissle has directed the host and sidekick to use very believable British accents, and the use of "boo" and "applause" signs involves the audience in an engaging fashion. Acting is top-notch, with the nearly silent Mr. Nance coming close to stealing the show with his perfectly in-character reactions, and the show ends on a sweet, poignant note.

"Tapas IV: The Great Divide" is a mixed bag, with half the plays disappointing and the other half good. Unfortunately, the disappointment of the first couple of plays lingers throughout the evening, not ever being fully redeemed. There’s some terrific work onstage, but it has to be taken along with less admirable efforts that drag down the overall quality of the show. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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