BPF Review: ‘The Things We Do…an evening of one-acts’

‘Protest’ with C-Mo Molloy and Siobhan Beckett. Photo by Ken Stanek.

Another selection of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival is playing at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theater. Well, three of them actually. The Things We Do…an evening of one-acts is a wonderful evening that the audience thoroughly enjoyed.

The evening is directed by Lynn Morton and uses the same group of nine actors throughout.  Ms. Morton was inconsistent; sometimes she was dead-on in her interpretation, and other times it felt like she needed a more delicate hand.  But Spotlighters is theater in the round, and anyone who puts up a credible production in the round gets my respect.

 If you are interested in watching local playwrights develop their work, this is a must-see.

The first play is a real charmer called Protest.  In it, playwright Adam Meyer has succeeded in doing what many try but rarely manage: An adorable piece of fluff that does not work at being adorable and fluffy.  He masterfully avoids making the play just too cutesy for comfort.  Part of the credit for that, though, must go to the actors and director.  This is the time when Ms. Morton was dead-on.  C-Mo Molloy and Siobhan Beckett are just wonderful as Tyler and Lizzie, the couple who meet at a protest rally.  The stage comes alive as soon as they step onto it, which is such a comfort when so often an actor doesn’t start acting until their first line.  Being the only two who showed up, they kinda have to interact, and they do so with all the awkwardness, shyness, and self-consciousness that are dead on.  I don’t know if the awkward silences that show up here and there are the work of the playwright or the director, but they’re perfect.  Nobody tries to fill them, they let them be.

The protest is against something called flerbing.  It is bad for the person doing it and those around him or her; it’s really rude, and most people, though they are very reluctant to admit it, did cave to social pressure at one point and flerbed. Once I accepted that the play was never going to tell us what flerbing is, I sat back and enjoyed it.

‘Replay’ with Co-Mo Molloy and Rachael Lee Rash. Photo by Ken Stanek.

The second play, Replay, is another Mark Scharf play.  His full-length Hired Gun ran earlier in the Festival and as I commented at the time, it is one of his more tightly-written plays.  Replay is a great show, but it should have been shorter.  The first part is engaging, partly thanks to the actors.  Rachael Ray Rash will be playing Le Ann when you see it, but it was Amy Parochetti when I was there, and she really did a good job.  Mr. Molly is Josh, a terribly distraught man.  It seems something horrible happened between him and his girlfriend, and he is trying to work it out, to understand what happened, what went wrong.  The problem is that about two-thirds into it, everything just gets repetitious.  Mr. Molloy is very good in this one, but he does seem to be a little bit of a Johnny-one-note.  He feels guilty, sad, angry, and many other things, and I would have liked to have seen the feelings interplay with each other more distinctly than they did.  What we get is pretty much the same mixture of them throughout.  And Mr. Molloy seemed awfully in control for someone who talks of losing his mind.  This is the one where I felt the director needed more colors to the piece.

The audience was split pretty evenly between those who knew what was coming at the end and those who did not.  I wasn’t one of them, it came as a complete surprise to me, but didn’t ruin it for those who did figure it out.  Honestly, I think one of the reasons I missed it is that – and I hate to admit this – at that two-thirds point, I checked out a little.  I love Mr. Scharf’s work, I really do, but he needed to cut out the repetition in this one.

‘A Good Brain Is Hard To Find’ with Alexander Scally, Siobhan Beckett, Rachael Lee Rash, and C-Mo Molloy. Photo by Ken Stanek.

After intermission, was Rebecca Wyrick’s A Good Brain Is Hard To Find.  The title gives you a hint it’s going to be a Mary Shelley-ish story and the play does not disappoint.  The twist, though, is that it takes place in The Future, one in which creativity and individuality are criminal.  Ms. Bekett plays Hannah West, the scientist who is being interrogated/threatened by the ruling Council, represented at this level by Inspector Ohls, played by Andrea Bush.  She appears to be the villain, but we – and Hannah – come to find out, she has actually been protecting Hannah.

Dr. Frederick Waldman is either Hannah’s mentor or her inspiration or something like that.  I was never exactly clear.  Possibly because I couldn’t understand a thing he was saying.  The script has him as one of those is-he-crazy-is-he-not people.  Is he just babbling or is he spouting grand wisdom?  Unfortunately, the actor speaks so quietly and quickly and/or has such bad diction that only rarely was I able to catch anything he said.  He is strangely androgynous too, which many in the audience found discomfiting.

Ms. Morton seemed to be going for a quiet intensity, which can be very effective.  And I think would have been in this show but for two things.  One, it was too quiet.  And also, that’s something you use once in a play this length.  If you overuse it, as this play did, they all lose their significance; if everything is important, nothing is important.

Ms. Beckett was brilliant in this one, too.  She missed a few things, though.  For instance, her forbidden experiments are her entire reason for living, yet when she spoke of them, she didn’t sound all that excited.

Mr. Molloy plays the role of Henry, the “monster” Hannah brings to life.  There was a Johnny-one-note feeling about him this time, too; he seemed to always be on the verge of tears.  Even if the character legitimately is, it’s boring on stage.

The most intriguing thing about this play is you don’t know how it ends.  And since it’s the last show, that’s how the evening ends too, which is a very refreshing change.  All in all, it’s a good evening of theater.  If you are interested in watching local playwrights develop their work, this is a must-see.

Running Time: Approximately one hour and 50 minutes with one intermission.

The Things We Do…an evening of one-acts plays as a part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival through Sunday August 26, 2012 at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre – 817 St. Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-1225 or purchase them online.