Thursday, August 24, 2006

24 is 10: The Best of the 24 Hour Plays (Fringe '06 Experience #3)

Okay, I'm now back on track (which is odd that I'm particularly fussy about this, considering that the theatre blogosphere has been pretty mum about the Fringe this summer).

Yesterday evening Pete and I went to go see 24 is 10: The Best of the 24 Hour Plays at the Lucille Lortel, which featured: Deliver Me, written by Teresa Rebeck and directed by Kelley O'Donnell; Cuba, written by Michael Wynne and directed by Joe Ward; Sizable Town, written by Mike Doughty and directed by Angie Day; Be Still, written by Stephen Winter and directed by Sturgis Warner; and That Other Person, written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Howard Fine.

The deal with the 24 Hour Plays, not surprisingly, is that a number of one-act plays are written, cast, directed and performed within a day. Although originally intended to be a one-night-only event, the concept (created by Tina Fallon) has gained enormous popularity and momentum. Since this was started 10 years ago, the company decided to bring back what they (and their audience members) thought were the cream of the crop.

It's pretty much impossible to write a review/assessment of 24 is 10, since each night presents a different batch of plays. So the show I saw has already gone off to that Great Production in the Sky, and if you choose to go see this Fringe show, you'll be seeing a completely different group of shows.

Having said that, I'll still offer my proverbial two cents on the Wednesday evening performance (i.e., the one that I saw).

The batch I saw was a bit hit-or-miss, although the misses were far from atrocious (they were all too short to be painful) and hey; they were written in less than a day, so a little slack can of course be cut. In between each piece, Matthew Brookshire performed some David Grey/James Blunt-esque music (i.e., Sensitive Male Music), which frankly, I could have done without (this is a subgenre of music I'm getting pretty sick of).

The first two plays, Deliver Me (about a delivery crew trying and failing to move a large unmovable desk out of a stairwell) and Cuba (about an older British woman being asked by a man to dance for the first time in her life), were very..."shmeh." The former was vaguely funny, the latter was vaguely touching, both were pretty forgettable.

The third play, Mr. Doughty's poetic and absurdist Sizable Town, about a guy and his girlfriend wanting to move to a, well, sizable town in order to break into show business and fight crime, was pretty much worth the price of admission alone. Silly and funny as all hell and reminiscent of Tom X. Chao's more esoteric pieces and Kevin Smith's short film The Flying Car, though...not really. It's virtually impossible to describe to give an accurate explanation of the experience (i.e., at one point, one of the characters dies from sheer disillusionment yet gets brought back to life after the Cowboy of Happiness serenades her). As Mac Rogers stated, "I don't even know how to describe, but we went nuts for it when I saw it." Yes, indeed.

Julie Wright, the female lead of Mr. Doughty's play (she's billed as "Carlette" but is really only ever referred to as "Girly-Girl" and other pet names), was fantastic. Every word that came out of her mouth made me lose it; sort of a cross between Carol Burnett's "Old Lady" character and Becky Brooks's on-stage presence with Cars Can Be Blue.

After intermission, we got Be Still, the second-best show of the evening that's completely different in tone, theme and content. Be Still is a very good, very touching play about a woman having to bury her lover (Joe Lattimore), for whom she has ambivalent feelings. Of course, how can you be anything but ambivalent for someone who's told you that they want to be with you, "every other day for the rest of your life?" The captivating René Alberta plays the narrator and protagonist with the perfect combination of disdain, frustration and pain as she insists on organizing the funeral.

The final play, That Other Person, features Elizabeth Berkley (yes, that Elizabeth Berkley) as the once outcast fat girl from high school running into (well, she was actually spying on them and they caught her, so "running into" is not the right phrase exactly) her former high school alumni, who all happen to be undergoing marital crises. This one was pretty funny, albeit more than a little frivolous. The standout performance came from SNL alum Rachel Dratch as a jilted wife wanting a divorce from her cheating husband.

Despite half of the plays simply being metzo-metzo, the experience of going to the show was overall fun, because even the weaker links were just in the "inoffensive" rather than "draining" vein (you really can't go wrong with a play that's only 10-15 minutes long; even if it sucks, you only have to wait a few more minutes before it's over and the next one comes up). And again: hey. You're watching shows written and rehearsed in less than a day, which is in-and-of-itself a cool theatergoing experience.

I believe I'll be taking tonight off from the Fringe (I'm not getting free or discounted tickets for these shows, so Fringe-hopping is starting to take its toll on my bank card), and most likely renting something lowbrow and offensive (like The Devil's Rejects). Tomorrow is my date with Eye Candy and Saturday is when I double-dip with Air Guitar and Vice Girl Confidential.

For tickets to 24 is 10: The Best of the 24 Hour Plays, click here.

A sizable playwright,

James "Cowboy of Grumpiness" Comtois

Ps. Mac Rogers has posted his script Karla Says, which will be playing at tonight's batch of 24 Hour Plays, here.


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