Two days, fourteen new plays. With lots of laughs and some moments of compelling drama, the second night of The 14/48 Project is just as skillfully executed and fun as the first.
If you’ve been to the festival or read my review from Friday’s 10:30 p.m. show, you know how The 14/48 Project works. The plays I saw at the Saturday 8 p.m. show were written between the playwrights receiving the prompt “Taking a Shot” on Friday night and 8 a.m. the next morning. After being assigned to plays by random drawing, the directors and actors tackled seven more new plays. The pieces I saw on Saturday night premiered after forty-eight hours of new theatre creation by an adventurous group of artists.
The atmosphere in the Gregory Falls Theater was significantly different at this Saturday World Premier show. The audience was larger and older on average. An audience member could overhear conversations between friends of the performers, or between middle-aged, male theater figures scouting talent, and occasionally muttering “She’s so hot” about actresses half their age. The overall vibe was supportive, the audience confident in the talent of the 14/48 artists. People seemed excited to see these new plays produced under challenging conditions.
After an ‘80s rock style theme song by the band, the show, like Friday’s, opened with a comedic piece by Ali el-Gasseir and Jonah Von Spreecken. Llama Gold starts as a coffee commercial and becomes a tale of drug trafficking and female friendship. It’s creative and hilarious, and features strong performances from Hattie Claire Andres, Maggie Lee, and Rebecca Olsen.
For the night’s second segment, playwright Jim Jewell again tries to tackle heavy subject matter. Snapshot is a story of gods watching humans in a war zone, focusing in on one teenage romance. There are themes of love, sacrifice, and the beauty of illogical human behavior. The play is critical of either religion (from a Problem of Evil approach), how people in wealthy countries view those in poorer countries, or both. If you’re wondering how all this could possibly be tackled in a ten-minute play written in twelve hours, the answer is “not well.” Snapshot presents serious issues and themes with so little depth that it belittles the real ongoing problems on which it is based. Jewell once again tries to be insightful, but his work comes across as pompous.
Right of First Refusal by Julia Nardin is a much more successful dramatic piece. The story is set in a not-so-distant future. A lifer inmate tries to persuade his estranged daughter to administer the lethal injection he desires. Leads Kiki Abba and Laurence Hughes skillfully and passionately tackle this material. The play explores a tricky moral problem and an intense father-daughter relationship. With Right of First Refusal and What Remains, playwright Julia Nardin has shown herself to be an exceptional talent this festival, capable of creating interesting and compelling drama even under extreme time restrictions.
Into the Fog, a zany comedy by Nick Edwards, completes the first act. In a future without men, four women in a Wild West-style saloon must decide which of them will propagate humanity by accepting the last remaining reserves of sperm. Amy Escobar, Kathy Hseih, Jaime Roberts, Erin Stewart, and Kate Wootton have great chemistry, and all deliver hilarious performances. Cool costumes, laugh-out-loud jokes, and a Firefly-meets-Children of Men sci-fi world make Into the Fog one of the show’s most memorable segments.
After a sing-a-long (“If you’re happy and you know it, take a shot!”) with the band, Clayton Weller’s Trypanophobia kicks off the second act. A man with a fear of needles finds himself in a nightmarish situation in which he is forced to get a series of tetanus shots from two mysterious doctors. Trypanophobia somehow manages to both be hilarious and accurately recreate the atmosphere of a bad dream. It also features some of the night’s best design work with its giant, climactic hypodermic needle.
Darian Lindle’s Drawn doesn’t quite live up to most of its fellow 14/48 plays. There isn’t much of a plot, but this story of a boy whose drawings come to life is sweet and sincere. Jake Ynzunza delivers strong and funny performances as a knight, and cowboy, and a giant monster who wins both the boy and the audience over. The play is not particularly memorable, but the family-friendly tone and subject matter make this piece unique in the night’s program.
The crowd-pleasing Boxed by Brandon Felker closes the show. This story of a woman struggling in a sexist world features solid acting and a few good jokes (example: a mansplaining hipster who renamed himself “Silence”), but I found it to be weaker than his Friday show. Felker is fortunate Boxed played to a crowd already on board with its message, and familiar with its talking points and feminist language. The show was preaching to the choir, but the choir enjoyed it. As the band played “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” to bookend the play, the Saturday World Premier show of The 14/48 Project left the audience happy.
Overall, the second night of the 2017 14/48 Project’s first weekend was as fun and exciting as the first. I will make sure to seek out the future work of many of the artists involved, especially Julia Nardin, Brandon Felker, Bobbin Ramsey, Nick Edwards, Harry Todd Jamieson, and the writing team of Ali el-Gasseir and Jonah Von Spreecken. I highly recommend seeing a new group of artists take on the challenge of creating fourteen new plays in forty-eight hours at the upcoming second weekend of the World’s Quickest Theater Festival. It will be covered here on Drama in the Hood by Mark Douglass.
The 14/48 Project. Gregory Fall Theatre, ACT – A Contemporary Theatre, 700 Union Street, Seattle, 98101. Fri-Sat, Jan 6-14, 8 pm and 10:30 pm. Tickets: http://www.acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/1448#Tickets Info: http://the1448projects.org/ or 206-292-7676.