Sunday, January 16, 2011

Theatrical Review: Original One Act Plays

The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA presented The Worthington Players production of the Original One Act Plays who won their 2010 Playwright Completion. The annual event is a result of inviting playwrights to send in their original works, forming a panel to select the finalist, presenting the chosen plays in a series of staged readings, and tallying the votes received from the viewing audiences to determine which plays will be presented as full productions. This process not only gives a local playwright an opportunity to have his/her work presented on The Shawnee Playhouse stage but also gives the audiences who frequent the venue a chance to experience some new and interesting work.

The first of the one act plays presented was a piece titled, “A Night in the Toll Booth” written by Tom Hudak and directed by Midge McClosky (who also serves as The Shawnee Playhouse Executive Director). The play was about a Toll Booth Collector named Mike T. Fine as played by Kevin Hillman. His line delivery added much to the comedic effect of the work which took place at (as the title suggests) a Toll during the night shift. Although the play did seem to slow down in some spots, it proved to be an amusing theatrical experience creating an anticipation among the audience eager to learn what the author‘s future endeavors may be.

The second of the one act plays presented was a piece titled, “Ethereal Killers” written by Zanne Hall and directed by Amy Cramer. The play took place in a Psychiatrist’s office in which one of the doctor’s more disturbed patients named Fischer (as played by Luke Swierczek) meets with an unsuspecting patient named Midge (as played by Ariel Hudak who also served as a member of the Playhouse‘s Box Office Staff) who begins her first session not knowing she’s doing so with a psychotic killer who recently murdered her doctor (as played briefly by Chris Martinelli). Although the theatrical air still had some comic residual effects of the previous play, it soon became clear there was something sinister transpiring and once this was fully realized the audience began to experience the sense of dread the scenario inspired.

This sense of dread was enhanced as Fischer’s traits which leads to his murderous endeavors were revealed and Midge’s desperate attempts to avoid becoming his next victim found their way to the realm of hopelessness. The audience soon found themselves relating to Midge’s position as each member began to speculate how they might proceed. However, a sudden death brought a finality to all such thoughts by a piercing gun shot which remained echoing in the audience‘s collective minds as a foreboding of what will be the fate of the Doctor‘s future patients.

The final One Act Play presented was titled, “Whimsical Grimm” which was written by Stephen A. Williams and directed by Sara Ferguson. To say this play was funny or even hilarious would be a very gross understatement. This fairytale like work was part surreal, part stream of consciousness, part theatre of the absurd, and had other theatrical elements my theatre teachers mentioned making me wish I paid more attention so I could relate them all in this review. All this reviewer can say for now is “This play was weird. But in a very good way.”

The play mostly focused on the lives of two sets of people. The first was a couple who have been married for 40 years. The husband named Frederick (as played by Dan Eash) finds coming home a frustrating one as his wife Katelizabeth (as played by Kaitie Kaiser) keeps forgetting his name. As the play progresses, it’s discovered this forgetfulness is the least of his marital woes as she is what many in the mental health profession refer to as “a real ditz.”

The second couple consists of a man named Rupert (as played by Chris Martinelli) who experiences a frustration with his maid Gretel (as played by Sarah McCarroll) who seldom cleans, cooks, or do any other maidly things. The situation becomes a bit complicated when Rupert comes home to announce he’s in love and Greta thinks it’s with her. Alas, she discovers it’s with someone else and she is assigned the task of preparing dinner for them. Those audience members who witnessed the antics of these two characters throughout their scene have very little reason not to expect something deviously hilarious is about to transpire and, keeping true to the entirety of the work, it happens in the most delightful way.

The scenes depicting the lives of the two couples were sewn together by two narrator played by Scott E. McIntosh and Amy O’Brian who also portrayed other characters adding to the mayhem. This exceptionally well written play was a joy to experience as was the performances. Although the merits of the previous plays deserved high praise, this was (in this reviewer’s opinion) the best of the bunch and a fitting way to conclude a satisfying evening at the theatre.

The producers of the productions presented at The Shawnee Playhouse are Ginny and Charlie Kirkwood while the group sales manager is Mary Horn. The Box Office Staff includes Chrissy McMannus while Becky Haskell serves as the playhouse’s Sales and Marketing Director. Special recognition for this production was given to Marshall Haskell, Bob Waltz, and Michelle Handy who served in many capacities including that as Stage Manager.

The Worthington Players production of the One Act Plays who won their playwright competition concluded its run at The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on the Delaware, PA on Sunday January 16th. It is unfortunate this reviewer was unable to experience this collection of new and exciting theatrical pieces earlier due to inclement weather conditions. They are worthy of an audience as they are sure to bring an appreciation to the art form. If any of these plays are shown again at The Shawnee Playhouse or any other theatrical venue, it would be well worth it to attend.

In addition to the One Act Plays presented, a full length play also won the 2010 playwright competition. It is titled, “Spanakoptia” and is written by Larry Rossler. It will be presented at The Shawnee Playhouse February 12th - 20th. This year’s competition is currently accepting original work until Monday January 31st with the Staged Readings for the finalist taking place March 4th, 11th, and 18th. You may obtain information regarding The Worthington Players 2011 Playwright Competition submission procedures from The Shawnee Playhouse.

Other Shawnee Playhouse presentations will be The Kaleidoscope Players production of “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee January 22nd - February 6th, The Shawnee Playhouse productions of “Broadway on the Red Carpet” February 25th - 27th and “Branigan’s Blarney” by Rod Foote March 4th - 20th, The Worthington Players production of “The Skyscraper” by David Auburn March 25th - April 3rd, The Prestige Productions presentation of “Love, Sex, and The I. R. S.” by William Van Zant and Jane Milmore April 8th - 17th, and The Center Stage Players production of “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney April 22nd - May 1st.

Those who enjoy the Passionate Art Lover level of membership in The Forwardian Arts Society are offered a $3.00 discount off the admission fee of The Shawnee Playhouse Productions (excluding Children Theatrical Productions and those presented by non Shawnee Production Companies). Please contact The Shawnee Playhouse at 570-421-5093 or Explore their website at for more information (including submissions for The Worthington Players 2011 Playwright Competition) and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The Shawnee Playhouse.

No comments: