Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Five Shorts In One Night With UWM

An Enjoyable Evening At Kenilworth With Promising, Young Talent

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The tiny performance space at Kenilworth Square was relatively packed—largely with rising, young local theatre talent for a one-night-only performance of a program of shorts referred to as 5 Plays You Didn’t Know.

An evening of five shorts selected by UWM professor Rebecca Holderness Began at 6pm and ended somewhere around 9:30 pm if I recall correctly . . . spanning a couple of different floors and performing spaces in the process. The program was a project Holderness presented to a number of second year acting students. The program was surprisingly engaging for the full 3 plus hours it was onstage, which is saying quite a bit for a series of largely unrelated bits of drama and bittersweet comedy.

The program opened with Auburn Matson, Ashley Sevedge and Eric Scherrer in David Edgar’s Ball Boys. Matson and Sevedge played a pair of boys working a professional tennis court in England who eventually accost a pompous tennis mega-star played by Scherrer. . . there’s a kind of comic brutality to the short. It won a couple of awards when it was first staged in England a few years back and it’s not difficult to see why. The brutality of the ugly intellectual vs. physical beauty dynamic of the short is a bit lost here. (Matson and Sevedge are good actresses, but they’re actually quite attractive and fail to render the articulate gracelessness of the characters in the script.) Sevedge and Matson do, however, do a remarkably good job of finessing the drama out of some oddly poetic bits of intellectual discourse and the broader, existential themes posed in the script.

The program then went a few floors down for a staging of Barbara Weichmann’s Feeding the Moonfish. This one was a bit more satisfying for me than any of the other plays on the program. Evan Koepinck plays a guy walking out on an abandoned dock somewhere in Florida. It’s a very poetic moment between him and the voices he hears in the water beyond the dock until a girl named Eden (Megan Kaminsky) shows-up, Evidently the two of them work together in a restaurant and she stowed away in his car just to find out where he goes every night after work. Both Koepnick and Kaminsky also appear in UWM’s production of Hay Fever, which ran this past week. Kaminsky’s talent is no surprise here. She deftly walks the line between vulnerability and aggression that make her a great deal of fun to watch. Her performance in Hay Fever was every bit as interesting. Koepnick’s performance in Hay Fever was a bit less accomplished, which is why his performance here was so energizing. The character he’s playing here has sort of a dark fascination with some very, very brutal memories on the dock. There’s some real poetry in what he’s performing here that is positively breathtaking. The rapport between Kaminsky and Koepnick was really, really engrossing. Weichman captures a kind of gritty, surreal darkness in two people falling in love that Koepnick and Kaminsky render with remarkably vivid emotion. Near the end, she’s asking him to tell her she’s beautiful. And you want him to tell her she’s beautiful. The lights fade out. It was one of the more interesting romances to make it to the stage this season and it only ran for one night.

After a brief re-adjustment, the program continued with the third short of the evening—Julia Cho’s The Small Museum. The script to this one wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as it could’ve been . . . the cast did as best they could with kind of a weak premise. Mary Buchel played the proprietor of a museum of lost things. Max Kurkiewicz played a gentleman who wanders into the curious museum from the rain. Some interesting poetry here ,but it never really builds into much. William F. Wu’s short story Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium handles the same mood in a much more compelling way.

The cast from the first short on the program returned for a second short—Sarah Hammond’s Blue Like. It’s a play about unhinged human connection and the color blue which seems to fit the cast a bit better than Ball Boys, but the broad strokes that the production paints in are a bit less engaging. That being said, Sevedge and Matson do a particularly good job of carrying a mood that is picked-up by Scherrer to end the short.

Marques Causey, Max Hultquist and Toni Martin closed the program with a staging of a clever little short called Dead Wait by Carson Kreitzer. Purgatory is envisioned as a restaurant with dead actors as waiters. Kind of a brilliant idea that is kind of brilliantly delivered in the script. Hultquist plays the late Ronald Goldman—yes, that Ronald Goldman. He comes across as a bit of a tool here, but Hultquist does a really good job of making him come across with a great deal of charm here. Hultquist also showed-up in Hay Fever, but makes far more of an impression here. Marques Causey plays the heavier end of the script as a man who suffered a very unfortunate fate and lost the woman he loved . . . a woman still among the living. Toni Martin rounded out the cast in the role of the late Jayne Mansfield. Martin may not look the part (few could) but she’s got the right kind of glamour-thrust-in-darkness to make for a very interesting performance nonetheless.    

It was kind of a long night of theatre for a Monday, but it was exceedingly enjoyable. Holderness put together a really interesting program here. With any luck, the second year acing shorts program becomes an annual thing. I love shorts in May.

 

 

The next local shorts program opens on May 21st courtesy of Pink Banana Theatre Company. It’s a program of entirely new shorts written by local playwrights including myself, Neil Haven and others.

 


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