Live Girls’ production of Quickies Volume 12, at Theatre Off-Jackson offers a delightful evening of funny and profound short plays. With the exception of the last play, all were well-written, acted, directed and well worth seeing. Six of the seven plays dealt with different aspects of the female condition. The Closet dealt with another species of “the other,” gay men disguised as toys. All the plays were written by women playwrights and were very much in the “chick lit genre” that is to say, the plays were conversations about relationships and feelings.
In between each play, the audience was entertained by scene changes to upbeat music and choreography, as the actors moved furniture around. As a result, the audience was able to differentiate each play, and get some psychic breathing space. The simple set was effective and accommodated all seven plays very well.
The evening got off to a hilarious start with Expecting Bobby by Joy McCullough-Caranza, directed by M. Elizabeth Eller. A mildly politically correct couple, played by Meg McLynn and Daniel Christensen, are about to have their first baby and are wrestling with the knowledge that their progeny may, in fact, adopt values they do not condone. The images, in their heads of their yet-to-be born children, are acted out by Alex Garnet, a superb actor, taking on different roles as the children
Bloom by Emily Schwend, directed by Erin Kraft, was a tour de force of effective dialogue. The playwright wrote impeccably au courant teenage slang, without creating clichés or caricature. Female aggression, of the passive variety, and the fierce competitiveness of female friendships are the themes expressed in this backyard sunbathing conversation between two sisters. The two teenage sisters, played by Adria La Morticella as Natalie and Norah Elges as Phoebe, express some sibling conflict but also sibling love and compassion, as the older girl supports her younger sister, after a betrayal by the best friend from hell. The comic timing was spot on, the delivery of the naturalistic lines wasperfect, the accents flawless. I got the feeling that future dialecticians might use this play to learn about early 21st century slang.
The Hole Story by Kathleen Coudle-King moved the discussion of the female condition, to late middle-aged sisters. As they steal a bit of down time, they contemplate how their so-called saintly mother, kept her life together, while kept coping with a big family. The daughter’s hiding place is an ice house, where they pretend to do some ice-fishing (presumably in Minnesota) while their husbands watch sports on TV (Presumably the Super Bowl) Needless to say, the saintly mother had a few skeletons-but not in the ice house.
Deviating from a feminist theme, The Closet was a funny and sad mixture of Toy Story and Huis Clos by Sartre, without taking itself so seriously. The Closet is about what happens to stored toys, after being discarded by a three year old-or so we thought. A purple Brooklyn-speaking dinosaur, Bernard, is played by Daniel Christensen, a pseudo tele-tubbie named Twinkles, is played by Jordaan Montes and a PeeWee Herman type toy is played by Alex Garnett. Garnett’s performance, as the mock PeeWee was physically demanding, energetic and incredibly funny.
The fourth piece, May Bear (A Play in Reverse)by Juliet Waller Pruzan, told the story of a grass-widow, with a baby, who gets pregnant by a teenager ( while her husband is in Iraq) The four scenes of the play are presented in reverse order. Although the theme is sad and tragic, the mother is a sympathetic character, buckling under the pressure of single motherhood.
In between each scene of the play, a dancer wearing a bear mask plays the father- confessor to each of the three characters, as they recount the story from their point of view, followed by the bear dancing to music. Unfortunately, most of the audience could not actually see the floor, so the dance was ineffective and superfluous. The ingenious way of telling the story, from conclusion to exposition, worked well on its own and gripped the audience’s attention. The dancing was a distraction.
Perfect by Crystal Skillmon was directed by Nikki Przasnyski, with Barbara Lindsay as Viv, a late middle-aged mother, and Melissa Fenwick as her grown-up daughter, Julie. On the day of the grandfather’s funeral, the mother and daughter dance a figurative tango. Julie, the daughter, wants the unconditional love of her mother, but is trying to be a grown-up person in her mother’s presence. The constant push-pull between these two powerful impulses was very poignant. It was touching and not lacking in humor.
The last piece, Good Work, by Gabrielle Sinclair Compton, directed by Ellie McKay was about a middle-aged couple watching themselves, on the night of their first kiss. It was in fact, a little confusing as it was not all that clear, until well into the play, what was going on. It had moments of humor but the character of the teenage girl, Alice, played by Val Brunetto, expressed a lot of contempt for the boyfriend’s religious principles. As a result she came off as obnoxious and annoying. The middle-aged couple was not integrated into the dialogue, so their roles seemed irrelevant and intrusive. Although the play had quite a bit of potential, it fell flat.
Quickies Volume 12 runs for two more weekends, until June 18, at Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave S, in the International District, Seattle Fri & Sat at 8 pm. Plus Mon June 13. www.lgtheater.org