The 3rd Annual 47:59 Play Festival
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
February 17, 2007
Impetuous Theater Group's 47:59 Festival is like a monster jolt of caffeine sprinkled on top of a box of laughs.
The situation is this: there are six playwrights, six directors, and seventeen actors. At 8pm on Friday night, the playwrights start writing (my guess is that they were given a topic of sorts, since each of the plays either mentioned religion or were about religion; mainly goofy fundamentalist Christians). The next morning their No-Doz fueled missives are passed on to their respective directors and actors, who then rehearse all day and get up on stage at 8pm to perform the newest work in the world.
Unless you are brand-spankin' new to the theater scene, I'm sure you've by now heard of the 24-hour play concept, and this is basically that. But the twist Impetuous has put on it is that after these one-acts close Saturday night, a different playwright writes Act 2. The same directors and actors go back to rehearsal and the play shows it's second half starting at 8pm Sunday.
The usual time-line of a play can be anywhere from a few weeks to years and years; from writing to casting to rehearsing and tweaking to previewing and then to performing. So how does one (me) go about critiquing a mere theatrical zygote?
Well, I'll tell you this. I had a lot of fun. The actors are all really ballsy and take big risks—what do they have to lose, right? I was quite surprised at how well they all knew their lines—with only a few hours rehearsal, hardly anyone missed a line (the few that did managed to cover well). For the most part, the direction was sharp and contained—a minimal set and nothing technically fancy kept the pace largely fast and furious.
The plays themselves range from quirky to totally bizarre. Here, I'll try to give you a brief overview of the six:
- The Proper Way to Give a Hand-Job Without Lubrication a.k.a. Blow Me by Mark Souza—a man named Adam is chosen by the devil (a lady) to destroy the world. This really pisses off his girlfriend, cleverly called Eve. They work through their issues with a brown-bag puppet show. Cute and surprising with great actors. Didn't quite understand what the title had to do with anything.
- Suburban Church Play by Averia Gaskin—a pill-popping drunk of a pastor who gets his groove on to 80s music tries to minister to a bitchy choir leader who hates poor people and an obsessive anorexic who hates herself. Funny. Ironic.
- MacDeath by Michael Bottomly—a goofy twist on just a touch of The Scottish Play, where a superstitious and over-trained actor in a jaunty blouse deals with a stage rookie who breaks every theater superstition rule in the book. I never knew there were this many superstitions. The actors are funny and connected. I thought this was the most clever piece of the evening.
- Sunset Hill Methodist Church Vacation Bible School by Matt Gibbon—two super-religious sisters run a Jesus Camp for kids. One sister is hot in the loins for our savior. This play works entirely on linguistic misunderstandings—they hire a girl who just got out of prison to work with the kids. This piece had potential, but more time was needed to clarify all the intentional confusions in the script—the actors came off as too smart to be as goofy as their characters.
- Shotgun Diplomacy by Taylor Shann—the most plot-driven piece of the evening. An imagined meeting of spies in Alaska during Dick Cheney's employment in the Nixon administration, goofily foreshadowing the recent Cheney hunting debacle. Funny, clever, a real cliffhanger!
- The Indoor Kids by Lindsay Wolf—high energy goof with adults playing some really neurotic and eccentric kids. They stay indoors because they're afraid of what's outdoors, and they sing about it. Funny script, broad characters, funny performances, and a great way to close out the show.
The theater was charged with an electricity from those on and off the stage and once it got started the evening was a lot of fun. Downsides? There are a lot of inside jokes being exchanged on and off-stage. But overall, this seems like a great way for the Group to really get together and make something happen while sharpening the skills of all involved. I only wish I knew how the Act 2's turned out!