Amy Steiger, Julie Streble, April Singer, Kelsey Thompson & Megan Brown
in Shop at Home, Part of the 4th Annual Ten-Tucky Festival Photo-The Bard’s Town
2014 Ten-Tucky Festival
Various writers and directors
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Once a year for four years now, The Bard’s Town has presented a program of short plays by Kentucky authors called the “Ten-Tucky Festival”. This year’s crop of seven features some of the same range of comic invention and heartfelt character studies as in previous years, even if the evening as a whole was missing some of the anarchic energy that gives it pizazz.
Tara Anderson’s Shop at Home (dir. Jake Beamer) gets things off to a broadly satirical start with a tale of middle-class women caught up in cult of commerce through home shopping clubs (gardening tools, cooking bowls, home pedicure kits, etc.). Their efforts to indoctrinate a new prospect, played with militant defiance by April Singer are the basis of the funny, fast-paced story, and the women portraying the die-hards (Amy Steiger, Julie Streble, Kelsey Thompson & Megan Brown) seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
A new employee at “The Barrett Museum” is horrified that the history museum has upped the stakes of its sword fighting demonstrations to potentially lethal levels in Action and Interaction by Corey Music (dir. Scot Atkinson). Any reference to a fight director and former Frazier History Museum staffer who was also a long-time fixture on the Louisville theatre scene but recently relocated to California is – strictly intentional. Yet it doesn’t rely on this for its darkly comic impact, and put me in mind of George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. The affectionate tribute features two memorable performances by Jeremy Sapp as the florid, overly dramatic master of the sword and Ryan Watson as the hyperactive MC of the combat ring.
Mr. Watson immediately returns in an even stronger turn as a man inflicted with a most curious malady in Gary Wadley’s The Library (dir. Cara McHugh). The malady is “IP”, a sort of Tourette’s Syndrome in which the sufferer breaks out into fits in which he can only express himself in iambic pentameter. Since he is unable to do anything other than speak the truth during these fits, his entreaties to a comely librarian (Megan Brown) turn the offbeat comedy into a sweet-natured and understated romance.
All the Answers by Mark Cornell (dir. Doug Schutte) is also funny, but interjects a sober metaphysical note with the notion of a woman (an acerbic Kelsey Thompson in a cool black dress) whose time in Hell consists of serving in Heaven as an oracle who has, literally, the answer to any conceivable question. The wrinkle is that each newly deceased arrival may ask only one question within a 10-minute time limit. Doug Schutte plays a man whose inability to decide what his one question should be tests her patience. The examination of one man’s insatiable desire to find the truth balanced against his own impatience is a slightly provocative idea that is suggestive of much more and illustrates that 10 minutes need not be a restriction.
After the first act, which was consistently interesting, if not always fully satisfying, the three pieces that followed the intermission were more of a mixed bag. David Clark’s Edgar (dir. Amy Steiger) was an intriguing premise: a data inputter (the excellent Ryan Watson again) struggles with the knowledge that the CEO of his company is mysteriously hidden behind a small door in his corporate office, but it peters out before resolving its ideas.
Taj Whitesell’s The Bubble (dir. Beth Tantanella) was impactful as much for being the one piece entirely serious in tone as for its nicely realized relationship between a man and a woman (Jeremy Sapp and April Singer) indulging in a platonic night of extramarital fantasy. It breathed fresh air into a stereotypical, clichéd scenario and was sensitively played by the two capable actors.
The final play, Bryce Woodard’s BSFFs (dir. Jake Beamer) seemed a wonderful premise, but the dysfunctional portrait of a Justice League meeting with Batman (Scot Atkinson), Wonder Woman, (April Singer), Aquaman (Jake Beamer), Superman (J.P. Lebangood) and Nightwing (Ryan Watson) failed to take off as intended on opening night. An unidentified and highly annoying electronic noise that occurred during a portion of the performance was undoubtedly a distraction for audience and cast alike, and may have done just enough damage upsetting timing and concentration to keep the production from realizing its potential.
It was all very enjoyable, and the fact that five of the writers are new to Ten-Tucky reinforce the value of the festival as an introduction to new voices, but it seemed restrained in comparison to previous Ten-Tucky Festivals, and I missed the giddy absurdity that was often a part of some of the loopier entries in the past.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of these formats is the opportunity it provides for actors to display range and versatility in one evening, and this year was a fine showcase for the members of this ensemble. Each member of the ensemble had at least one moment in the spotlight, but they also functioned effectively as a group, particularly in Shop at Home.
2014 Ten-Tucky Festival
September 18-27, 2014 @ 7:30pm
The Bards Town Theatre
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com[/box_light]