Thursday, July 28, 2016

Spring 2016: Humana Festival in Louisville

For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday by Sara Ruhl

The first show I attended this year was nearly unwatchable, despite the intriguing title. Plotless, the first half details the offspring of a dying man gathering in his hospital room and later at his house to mourn his passing. The second half though regresses into the siblings recreating the bedroom scene from Peter Pan, flying and all. Not a fan of either the Peter Pan story or this languishing play.

Wondrous Strange aka the Acting Apprentice Company show

I'm giving up on the Apprentice shows. The late start times combined with the serious scripts (for the past two years!) put me right to sleep. I don't remember anything about this one.

This Random World by Steven Dietz

I loved this play about a group of characters whose lives are interconnected even if they don't realize it. But, while dramatic irony is a great device, this play uses one dramatic irony after another and there is absolutely no payoff to any of them. Even if that's the point, it's still frustrating for the audience. Nonetheless, the play is entertaining and there's some beautiful writing here.

Cardboard Piano by Hansol Jung

The Victor Jory theater usually hosts a piece from an invited theatre company, but that doesn't appear to be the case this year. That may speak to the high number of quality plays submitted this year and this heartbreaker was probably my favorite of the bunch! Set in an impoverished African village prey to a brutal warlord, act one shows one devastating night in the life of a missionary's young daughter. When she returns many years later, she's horrified to discover the person responsible for her pain is the pastor at her now deceased father's church. Needless to say, the closure she desires (or the revenge she imagines) is not easily attainable or comforting. Powerful stuff!

Wellesley Girl by Brendan Pelsue

Judging by the title, one might think that this play concerns a school girl in a New England college prep. But no, this one belongs on the Sci-Fi channel in more ways than one. A post-apocalyptic, walled-off town's leaders debate the best course for survival when an outside group requests entry. While we never meet the other fraction, there's enough politics between the town's own members, both human and android, to make for an interesting discourse. Unfortunately, not all of scenarios pondered seem reasonable or logical and the play is not very theatrical, at least not until the end. Better suited to a TV mini-series.

Residence by Laura Jacqmin

This play was another highlight the festival and a great way to close it out. Concerning the down-trodden living and working at an extended stay hotel, Residence featured the most fully developed and real characters of the fest. My only quibble is the doubling of one of the actors, one of whose roles, at first seemingly peripheral, was only seen on an iPad during Facetime calls. A long, central scene later in the play though really calls out for an actor to be present on stage. Still, this is a strong, moving piece.

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