Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review : IDENTITY CRISIS

“Identity Crisis” Play Festival

Review : IDENTITY CRISIS

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“Identity Crisis” Play Festival

by Toby Zinman

for the Inquirer

 

A smorgasbord approach to theater: Luna Theater Company’s festival offers 10 ten-minute plays all focused on the general theme of “Identity Crisis.”  Ten playwrights, nine actors, five directors and four designers team up to create these quickies.  The advantage of a smorgasbord is that  you get to taste a little bit of many things; some you like, some you don’t.

Each playlet is introduced by a video of silhouettes; the actors replace their shadow figures—although in one of the plays, “Shelly,”  a man (David Sanger) argues with his alter-ego who is represented on film.

The first act—a group of six pieces—is subtitled, “Dark Side of the Moon” (it’s Luna Theater, after all) and the second act is four called “The Light(er) Side of the Moon.”  As you can imagine, the last are, more or less, comedies.

Among the best of the bunch were the longest: “Telltale Signs” by Quinn D. Eli, and directed by Tina Brock, is about a couple whose murdering psychopathology keeps them together.  Megan Slater is especially good here. Another interesting piece is “Cycles of the Moon” by Jae Kramisen, directed by Michael Durkin, where two young women (Kate Black-Regan and Haley McCormick) are nostalgic for a horrifying childhood of cruelty and neglect; their stunted psychological growth makes them want to stay babies.

Charming and funny and very contemporary is the last play, “Inbox: Empty or AirPort:Scanning” by Kate Brennan and directed by Gregory Scott Campbell, featuring Haley McCormick and Jeremy Gable as two lonely thirty-somethings who meet in a gym; their inner thoughts are texted on the screen behind them.  Also sweet was “My Robs” by Ron Burch, about the many aspects of one husband a wife has to negotiate them all-- romantic Rob, watch-the-game Rob, tired from work Rob, etc.

The least satisfying were those that were either two short to develop either a plot or characters; “Militant” by Eoin Carney, directed by Gregory Campbell seemed to be merely a fragment of  dialogue, while “Little World” by Joy Cutler, about Catherine the Great’s rebirth, made no sense to me whatsoever.

When the plays weren’t about relationships, they were about politics, and these were the most blatant: “Homeschooling of Jonathan Anderson” by Sean Christopher Lewis and directed by Aaron Oster, was about the extremes of parental childrearing theories as they teach their son revolution.  “The Cosmonaut in Human Resources” by Jeremy Sony, features Mark Cairns as a Russian cosmonaut who has been “marooned in space” but who learns the corporate lesson of ruthless self-help.

“Their Master’s Voice” by Larry Pontius, directed by Samantha Tower, seems to be about political obedience, but  is probably more about being an actor; two characters try to keep up with what the voiceover (i.e., stage directions) tells them to do, but are repeatedly undermined by their own free will.

With this much variety, and actors so fame and so versatile, it’s an entertaining festival.

 

 

Luna Theater Company at the Playground at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. Through June 3 .  Tickets $18-$28. Information: www.LunaTheater.org

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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