“Our Common Home” -International 10-minute Play Festival
Various writers and directors
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
After a brief dormant period, this biennial festival of short plays has returned to Bellarmine University with a program of material exploring an environmental theme inspired by Pope Francis’s letter outlining Catholic doctrine in response to climate change and the need to protect “our common home.” As with any group of shorts, there is some inconsistency in quality of the writing and performance, but the theme and smart sequencing go a long way towards shaping the evening.
A Bad Case by Robert Kingsolver (director Dr. Zackary Ross) opens the night with a clever premise that has Mother Earth (Paula Spugnardi) dealing with an infection of humans that has plagued her for years. The details from the development of the “infection” follow industrialization and over population rightly enough, but the fact that the concept is underdeveloped doesn’t undercut the effectiveness of the piece in its position as the starting point.
Benny & Pearl On The Waterfront by Nancy Gall-Clayton (director Melinda Crecelius) is a low-key but insightful, naturalistic vignette of two young people involved in a public clean up that meet a homeless man who is living in the area. The writing was let down somewhat by the lackadaisical playing.
Patricia Reynoso’s Forbidden Fruit (director Ben Gierhart) begins as a low-key character piece but takes a turn into speculative horror with a fine, macabre sense of humor.
Another unorthodox encounter similar to the one on Benny & Pearl occurs in Exit Cesar Chavez, by Steven Young, but plays out with more impact, partly due to the shift in the quality of the performances from Kester Spach and Keith McGill, but also because of some nifty, cinematic staging by director Amos Driesbach.
Eve Of The Vertebrates by Christian Simonsen (director Dr. Zackary Ross) was one of my favorite plays of the evening, a funny and inspired pairing of two amphibians coming onto dry land for the first time who meet Adam and Eve fresh from their expulsion from the garden. The script’s zany mash-up of Evolution and Creationism entices with ideas that are suggestive of much more, and the two actors portraying the two Tiktaliks (Cassie Emert and Ronny Chhun) in particular, were a highlight.
A more meditative approach was taken by Gwendolyn Rice in Sorting The Trash (director Kathi E.B. Elis), which consists of a monologue (Ms. Spugnardi again) illustrated by an ensemble of three women (Essence Sklodoski, Kelly Boyce and Ms. Emert). The balance of spoken prose and poetical staging was distinctive in the line-up, but suffered from Ms. Spugnardi’s soft speech, which at times was difficult to hear.
Hangin’ On The Edge by Cary Pepper (director Angela D. Miller) was akin to Eve of the Vertebrates in its embrace of comic anthropomorphism, and a tidy commentary on extinction that featured nice work from Rob Tunnell and Kelly Boyce as an endangered gorilla and a snow leopard, respectively.
Allie Costa’s Drop In The Ocean (director John Rooney) ended the evening on an upbeat note, giving the audience some hope and optimism for the future with a reminder of humankind’s potential. It was a graceful ending to a program full of doom and gloom, however much humor was employed in the telling.
Overall the quality of the acting witnessed the greatest variance, with some difficulty hearing lines and inexpert delivery contrasted with more professional efforts and few giddy, inspired turns. The strength of the festival comes from the care taken in choosing the order. Our Common Home very effectively shapes the thread of the message and smartly explores the theme as it runs through the individual pieces.
“Our Common Home” – International 10-minute Play Festival
March 16 – 19: 7:00 p.m.
March 21: 7:00pm
March 19 – 20: 2:00 p.m.
$8.00 General Admission
$5.00 Students (with valid ID)
Black Box Theatre
Wyatt Center For The Arts (off Norris Ave.)
2001 Newburg Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on ARTxFM/WXOX-LP, 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.