Reviews of Program Three

The New Perspective Festival is definitely a hit

Robert Hitchcox

Sadly, the New Perspective Festival is over. The stats were impressive: 24 plays, 21 directors, and 60 actors. And, of course, the beauty of short plays is that if one doesn’t appeal to you, no worry, it’ll be over in a few minutes. This year there were very few that fit that category.

There is, also, a very critical skill in creating a beginning, middle, and ending in 15 minutes. Not all playwrights succeed. Those who did gave their audiences the pleasure of a well-told story. Others were a slice of a longer work, teasing the audience. Both concepts work. Here’s a look at Program Three’s offering.

On the stage are five chairs and a small table. On the table an open box of the game “Operation.” Just what is playwright Matt Thompson’s Don’t Play Games with Me! all about. G. Lorenzo Crosby, who speaks with a game show emcee’s flair, is the Board Game Therapist, while the four people seated around him are addicts. Jamie (Patty Sleeter) has a near marriage-destroying case of Monopoly addiction.  Two others, Steve (Todd Butler) and Laura (Samantha Goldstein), also have serious board-game related addictions. The mystery lady, Jennie (Eve Risman) has an addiction so severe that we never find out what it is. I feel that it is an addiction of the therapist. Don’t Play Games with Me! is a fun sendoff for Program Three. Director Hannah Ryan gave the play a near perfect rhythm.

One of the top talents for the last three-plus decades is playwright Gary Seger. His play on words play The Earnest Importance of Being, is directed by Josh Hyatt. Miriam Cuperman plays a women seeking advice from a PhD (when she needs a psychiatrist) played by Michael Thomas Tower. She is an accomplished kleptomaniac with a proclivity for putting her ill-gotten gains in [her] bra. Her somewhat large purse holds, among other things, an urn with her dead [mother]’s ashes. The purse also is the recipient of her loot. Seger’s delightful use of the English language is apparent in the repeated reflections on being and state of being. The play is a delightful look at a couple of not totally together characters.

Teacher Teacher flows from the pen of fellow reviewer/actress Paola Hornbuckle and is directed by David Paye. Sally Stockton is a harried teacher. Her three students typify the more difficult ones. The playwright should know, for she is a teacher. There is the lovely Hannah (Laura Beth Hague). Hannah is on her cell phone, either talking or texting. Evan (Ben Calabrese) and Robert (Jeff Thomson) are equally rebellious. One insists on blasting music from his portable boom box. The other drinks booze in class. As if things couldn’t get worse, the school Superintendent, director Paye, sees the unruly class and abruptly fires the teacher. There, then, is a charming moment as each student embraces her. The playwright has just one more trick in her script. Nothing is what it seems when the super comes back in to have a drink with the teacher. While the pace could have been picked up just a tad, the show felt like a small slice of life.

Ending the first act was Peter Mitsopoulos’ The Fling Thing. Miriam Cuperman, who acted in Gary Seger’s play, directs Leah Garland and Tyler Herdklotz. We begin with an all-too-common plight of lost car keys. However, it is just a short time when this couple finds that a simple misspoken word can bring out a whole new level of truth about their relationship and their extramarital experiences. Be very careful in the use of [the word] "what" as in “What were you doing . . .” and "who" as in “Who were you doing it with?”   Words, words, words... use them right or you’ll probably end up abused. The play was directed and played with timing perfection. The script was crisp. These two actors seem destined to play together again. They did make the perfect couple.

Act Two began with Director/Playwright Michael Thomas Tower’s Cue to Exit, a classic tale of the end of a career. John Lore (Tom Delaney) is at the end of his directing career. He has lost his edge, that something special that many directors have when bringing exciting life to words on paper. The much younger Artistic Director, Evan (Christopher DeArmond), is tasked with the unpleasant task of firing John, a man who directed him in his first Broadway appearance. John’s emotions are fluid and range from anger to resignation, while Evan is compassionate throughout. For those of us that have had to fire somebody we truly respect, we know the agony that Evan was facing. The acting is solid. The play, I believe, was a bit longish as it trudged over the same ground a bit too often.

Kevin Six’s final part of his trilogy, Love Unrequited: Evening (European Gallery), again proved the playwright’s sensitivity as well as excellent use of our language. It opens with an aging Arthur (Andy Boutelle) viewing the favorite painting of his long-deceased wife. As his remembrances become more real she, Annie (Kimberly Ford), appears. Artist Devon, Elizabeth Taylor, blusters in accompanied by her fiancé, Martin (Ryan Mirvis). Their plan is a quick wedding ceremony in the museum before they get caught. Nester Gabeldon plays a hippy (?) preacher dressed in very strange garb. This is a very touching play; well written, well acted, and well directed. Kudos to the playwright, cast and, especially, to director Christopher Renda. I hope that someday we can see all three of Six’s Gallery plays in one sitting.

Fine Can Be Fine is the work of playwright Lizzie Silverman. Kevin Six directs. This fast-paced piece stars Tony Beville as John with Allison MacDonald and Calandra Crane as Rose and Shelly. John is on the duplicitous side with his lover (or was that just a very dear friend) and his wife. The structure of the play allowed for the two couples to be together, as well as the two women. There were also some monologs. Through it all we end up with a complete story. This is a well-acted, well-directed piece. As with others, it offers a believable slice of life, and very interesting concept quite well explored.

The final play of the evening was Craig Abernethy’s second offering, He’s Not Him directed by Walter Cameron. Anne Law and Sean Sedgewick play Kenzie and Josh, a vapid couple well impressed with themselves. We’ve all met them at soirees. Malloy (Lee Hall) is a loner at the cocktail party. They break into conversation . . . about themselves, naturally!  He is quiet. The mention that they shipped [Josh's] aging dad off to a home in India does fire up Malloy’s passion. It ends with a very simple, but telling twist.


Sadly, this is a fond goodbye for another year. Thank you to Kelly Lapczynski, Marie Miller, Lizzie Silverman, and Sally S. Stockton for all of their hard work and backstage toils putting The New Perspective Festival together...   I hope you had an opportunity to see at least one of the day’s offerings. See you next year at The New Perspective Festival.

SDNN Review, Pat Launer

July 1, 2009

One Night, One Perspective: I was only able to catch one of the three programs that comprised the third annual New Perspective Festival, which was held at Swedenborg Hall over two weekends this month. The Festival has filled the gap left by the long-running and much-lamented Actors Festival, which allowed local actors to try their hand at writing and directing. Under the aegis of artistic director Kelly Lapczynski, the Festival featured a total of 24 plays and 17 playwrights. Of the eight pieces I saw, most 10-15 minutes in length, there was a common concern: the brief playlets revealed an interesting idea that wasn’t taken to a satisfying conclusion. Many ended abruptly, without sufficient resolution. The direction and performances were earnest, but variable in professionalism and effectiveness. The comical topics covered were: board-game addiction (”Don’t Play Games with Me,” by Matt Thompson); kleptomania and cremains (”The Earnest Importance of Being,” by Gary Seger); the trials of teaching unmotivated high school students (”Teacher Teacher,” by Paola Hornbuckle).

The intriguing plays with more serious subjects focused on: marital infidelity (”The Fling Thing,” by Peter Mitsopoulos and “Fine Can Be Fine,” by Lizzie Silverman); a theater director firing his mentor (”Cue to Exit”); dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease by out-sourcing the care abroad (”He’s Not Him,” a black comedy by Craig Abernethy). The highlight of Program Three, and the winner of the audience-voted Best of the Evening, was “Love Unrequited in Three Galleries: Evening (European Gallery)” by Kevin Six, who wrote two other pieces (the other two “Galleries”) and directed “Fine Can Be Fine.”

In “Love Unrequited,” an older man (Andy Boutelle, excellent) returns to a museum on his anniversary, to visit the site where he fell in love with his late wife of 40 years, a painter who died 25 years ago. Annie (Kimberly Ford, aptly ethereal) appears to him and they reminisce. Then, another couple (Ryan Mirvis and funny/antic Elizabeth Taylor) comes in with their officiant, a masked, caped crusader (Nestor Gabeldon), to have a quickie wedding ceremony in front of the same painting that entranced Arthur and Annie. The older couple realizes that these two “don’t love each other enough.” With Annie’s guidance, Arthur gets the two to be more honest and open, to express their love more deeply and sincerely. When he finishes that little task, and serves as the witness to the marriage, Arthur is ready to be reunited with his beloved wife. Sweet piece, nicely done.

The Best of the Best award went to David Wiener’s “Feeding Time at the Human House,” directed by Jonathan Sturch, who performed with Dawn Williams. The brief one-act, which was originally produced at the Challenge III Festival of short plays at Compass Theatre, won Best Play last month at the 15-Minute Play Festival in New York City. Congrats to David Wiener, artist in residence at the San Diego Shakespeare Society. In case you missed it, “Feeding Time” will have an encore performance at the University Heights Arts Open on September 20, at Swedenborg Hall.

Other Festival awards went to “Twisting the Cat” by Alan Kilpatrick, directed by Carla Nell, performed in Program One by Wendy Savage and Reed Willard, with Honorable Mention going to Kevin Six’s “Love Unrequited in Three Galleries: Morning (American Masters),” directed by Catherine Miller, performed by Ann Clegg and Anthony Hamm. The Best Actress of the Festival was Samantha Ginn, who appeared in Steve Koppman’s “Cell Shock,” directed by Jennifer Tyrer; the Best Actor Award went to Jonathan Dunn-Rankin in “Kathleen McLaughlin’s “Teed Off,” directed by Dennis Hollenbeck.

Now that the Festival has established itself over three years, it’s time to raise the bar on the quality of the plays, directing and performances, with more oversight and fewer productions, if they don’t meet the more stringent criteria.

San Diego TheatreScene, Charlene Baldridge

Curtain Calls #15

This week’s extracurricular affair was attendance at the New Perspective Festival on Friday, June 26. Program Three offered nothing much a way of new perspectives; however, it provided a refresher course in how actors act at this level, how directors direct at this level, and how playwrights write at this level. Some of the writing, acting and direction induced inner groans, and, I’m afraid, a few audible sighs. Some plays crept along on little caterpillar feet with no evidence of direction. Some words issued from mouths apparently unequipped with tongue and teeth. However, as I learned at my unexpected attendance at a piano student recital several weeks back, there is a place for such things. In that case the players ranged from 4 to 40. In this case there were astonishingly good lines and actors with more than a modicum of talent, but there were more 4-year-olds than seasoned players.

New Perspective provides a showcase for all. When festival director Kelly Lapczynski and others put it together in 2007, it was intended as stopgap for the suspended 2008 Actors Alliance Festival. It’s 2009, and the place reserved on Actors Alliance’s web site for Festival of New Plays is blank; and New Perspective is back and better organized than last year. Even the folding chairs at Swedenborg Hall seem not as hard. Changes between plays moved along quickly.

I’d write in detail about the plays, but I’ll leave that to Hitch and others. Unfortunately, the best actors did not often perform the best scripts. Worthy of mention, however, is Michael Thomas Tower’s touching work titled Cue to Exit, which concerns a regional theatre artistic director forced to fire an aged director, who was once the toast of Broadway.