Pink Banana Theatre showcases emerging talent

By - Jun 13th, 2011 04:00 am
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Pink Banana Theatre Co. fashioned an entertaining mix in their annual one-act play festival which opened Friday night (June 10). Since 2004, Pink Banana has presented an annual evening of locally written one-act plays. Now a non-profit organization, Pink Banana continues its mission to “provide professional opportunities to emerging artists.” A collection of works allows new writers, directors and actors room to develop their talents. A supportive team and collaboration with established venues such as In Tandem‘s 10th Street Theatre nurtures that development. The six-play set featured comedy – which is fine for the audience, but less likely to incubate the next Arthur Miller or August Wilson.

Alix Lahren in conversation - in Portugese

Alix Lahren in conversation – in “Portugese”

Two works by Broadminded company member Megan McGee were polished sketches more than one-act material. In The Grade, a student approaches a teacher to argue for a better grade. In a parallel universe, a second student is on the same mission. But she and her instructor skip the game-playing and say what’s on their minds. Intertwining dialog draws out the contrast. In the escalating argument, Sammi Dittloff (student 2) and Ashlea Woodley (teacher 2) get the chance to deliver a fine bit of acting.

In the second sketch by McGee – Portuguese – a student (Alix Lahren) is stuck with a tape machine for an instructor when the course fails to enroll enough students. The tape machine (voiced by Marion Araujo) turns out to have an attitude and feelings as well. As the single premise provides less to work with the sketch is appropriately and satisfyingly short.

Contemporary romance was the subject of The Dilemma, by Sammi Dittloff.  A student agonizes over whether to ask a classmate he barely knows to “friend” him. Facebook mores are contrasted with a raunchy “Glow” party running at the same time in another dorm room – the more classic hook up scene in the college tradition. A riff on Hamlet -“To friend or not to friend” sums up the dilemma. Robb Maass as the agonized student and Michael T. Black as the party animal both give polished performances.

L to r: Kris Puddicombe, Rob Maass, Kelly Coffey, Karina Lathrop, Michael T. Black in Tough Cookie

L to r: Kris Puddicombe, Rob Maass, Kelly Coffey, Karina Lathrop, Michael T. Black in “Tough Cookie”

Comedy was given more room to grow in Tough Cookie by Rich Orloff. In this theater of the absurd sketch, young James is in jail preparing for trial for murdering a fellow student who took his cookie. The scene was loaded with one-liners skewering lawyers, parenting, bigotry and contemporary morals. The contrast between a “proper” lady lawyer and the “white trash” family was overdrawn, but the absence of a moral compass affected them all.

In Sound of One Loaf Baking by Charles Sommers a baker tries to dissuade his daughter from leaving the family profession. A series of too easy puns and a play on words (the family name is Baker) worked less well. But twists in the story with “Goth” girl friends, a competing Buddist baker and motivational shifts that made little sense left me working to figure it out rather than enjoying the jokes.

The most complete and complicated act – Allison Gruber’s Guess Who Died? – fit the model more completely. An English teacher, played by Beth Lewinski, steps in and out of scenes that explore her relationship with her students, her connection to her long-term significant other and her recalled experiences of a former teacher. The playwright gives the character the language that reflects a life of exposure to literature. The reflections on her life – both in short vignettes and to the audience – reveal both confusion and self understanding. The character has depth, but even more, the scenes themselves are often insightful.

The One-Acts Festival continues next week at Tandem’s Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. Tenth St. Remaining shows start at 7 p.m. Monday, June 13 (a pay-what-you-can show), 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16, and 8 p.m. June 17 and 18. Tickets can be purchased online for $12 or $15 at the door.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Theater

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