note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Niles T. Welch
At the Second Annual Short Play Festival presented by the Daydream Theater Company of Rhode Island at Rhode Island College's Gage Auditorium, which ran April 29 through May 1, 2004, five plays were presented. They were: ORLANDIS AND HIS PUPPETS WITHOUT STRINGS, written and directed by Mike Messier; ON A GOOD NOTE, written and directed by John Lincoln; THE BARRY WEINTRAUB EXPERIENCE, written and directed by Lenny Schwartz; FOUND, written by Spyce and directed by Brian A. Ottaviano; and THE WINGMAN, written and directed by Lenny Schwartz.
College productions need to be judged by a different standard than used for professional or adult amateur theater. At this Short Play Festival, aspiring writers, directors, actors and stage crews have been given a short time to strut their stuff upon the stage. My review is based on how they entertained their audience, and specifically me. All of these plays written and directed by college students were good, while some were much better, such as THE BARRY WEINTRAUB EXPERIENCE and FOUND, with FOUND being the best.
ORLANDIS AND HIS PUPPETS WITHOUT STRINGS was the first of the short plays. Although this play was hard to follow, the actors, especially the lead, created an empathetic scenario that anyone who's been a student knows only too well. The fact that the lead character, a man, was played by a woman did not add to the play. Neither the program nor the intro to the play gave a clue as to why it was cast that way. Puzzling. Also, the use of sexual innuendos in this play (and in three of the other four) seemed gratuitous and detracted from the otherwise fine elements in this play.
ON A GOOD NOTE, as the title implies, has a piano player who plays a few good notes while the other person who has conned his way into the piano lounge after closing time, listens sedately. Good music, good acting by both the piano player and the hit man made this a memorable play. The actors might have used a little more interpretation of their characters to make it more lively.
THE BARRY WEINTRAUB EXPERIENCE shows the maturing of a geek or nerd, depending on the time line in the play and how he "grows up" from pre-puberty to "adulthood." A cute play, although the actress who played Barry's dream girl could have been a little more varied in her portrayal. The comedy and choreography were great. An above average production of the five.
Unlike the other four plays where the author was also the director, FOUND was written by Spyce and directed by Brian A. Ottaviano. I "found" this play to be the best of the five, despite the occasional stumbling over a line or two. The use of musical stings indicating scene changes was good, but could have been more pronounced.
The play depicts a daughter's struggle to get free of her domineering, possessive mother who thinks her daughter's role in life is to serve her every need. The mother, played by Fern Rouleau, appears only in her nightgown and robe, carrying a doll. The mother's character and her relationship with her daughter can be summed up with the line, "As long as I live, you'll be my daughter and only that..."
This play, unlike the other five in the 2nd Annual Short Play Festival at RIC, is refreshing devoid of sexual innuendos and foul language. The play is well directed and starts off with a young man sitting outside, bundled up against the cold. The daughter comes along and sits down at an adjacent table and then starts a conversation about books. This is a slow romance, as you see the same setting with the weather gradually getting warmer. These book visits are punctuated by scenes in her apartment where her mother is demanding her daughter's undivided attention. Fern Rouleau plays the mother quite well in portraying her as borderline senile and a perennial bitch. The daughter keeps her cool despite many temptations to shout back. As the romance progresses through simmer into summer, the couple meet at the daughter's house and dream of things, better things to be. Spyce plays Belinda to evoke sympathy for her character, yet projects no animosity toward her mother (except one stifled retort where Spyce demonstrates her depth of acting). She also projects a craving for a boyfriend, something her mother never allowed. Troy, played by Brian DiBello, exudes shyness and a naivete that wants you to shout out "go ahead -- ask her out on a date!"
A very refreshing play that is well-written, directed, cast and played.
THE WINGMAN, although witty at times, was not as good a production as the writer/director's other play that evening. In this play, the sexual innuendoes and foul language were augmented by ethnic slurs -- an attempt at humor that failed. With all the ad libs going on, you couldn't be sure what the author/director intended. A good play nonetheless.
This was a college event worth seeing. These playwrights/directors are to be commended for their efforts. Be sure to catch next year's Third Annual Short Play Festival at RIC.
RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE'S SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL runs through 1 May.