Snapshot Theatre IV: Spring Break

Unlike most other art forms where the work is shielded from public view until it is "cast in stone," the theatre is a work in progress where readings, workshops, and early performances are open to the public for comment and suggestions. Here the playwright can get a hold of what works, what doesn't, and hopefully go back to the proverbial typewriter and doctor the script.

Another tool in the play development process is the short one-act, where playwrights develop their writing muscles, much like novelists hone their craft with short stories.

Combine these two ideas and what do you get?—Bootstrap Theatre's Snapshot Theatre: Spring Break—a collection of seven 10-minute plays, fully rehearsed, costumed, and lit, ready for quick-draw critiquing.

Photo of Tom Borrillo and Jennifer Forsyth in Martini Debacle
Tom Borrillo and Jennifer Forsyth
in Martini Debacle
The evening showed great promise, jump-started by actress-writer-director Katharyn Grant's Martini Debacle. Jeannie enters her boyfriend Sandy's apartment, ready to celebrate his birthday. Before Sandy comes out from the bedroom, Grant hooks the audience, giving them a secret to share with Jeannie, and thusly setting the tone for a well-written, contentious go-around between the couple. Jennifer Forsyth (Jeannie) and Tom Borrillo (Sandy) keep the stakes high, and the climax is hilarious and sweet. I'm ready for the sequel to this, perhaps Dangerous Daiquiris.

Next, we ventured into existentialism and the absurd with Katherine Dubois' The Condition, directed by Brady Darnell. A woman (Christine Herivel) has been called by her doctor (Jeff Gamet) to hear his diagnosis of her fatal condition. Without ever naming it, doctor and patient discuss every possible aspect of the problem. Unfortunately, after a few minutes the metaphor is obvious and the discussion becomes tedious. This is compounded by the limited choices given to and/or taken by the actors.

Which is bigger, the gap between parents and children, or the gap between computer users and non-users? What would happen if you compounded this problem by setting non-computer-literate parents against their cyber-nerd son? That's the premise of Does Not Compute, written and directed by J.M. Adams. If Martin (Jonathan Bertschinger), the teenager, were an eccentric character in someone else's play, he might be able to hold our interest, but after a short time the misunderstandings that result from the use of computer terminology around those ignorant of them runs out of gas. Then the story turns into a morality play, with the computer-literate "good aunt" showing up the parents. I would have been much more intrigued if the parents had picked up the "Computing for Dummies" book that their son had thrown at them and, unbeknownst to him, come up with crazy screen names and become his mentors in a chatroom. That would have turned the tables on the obvious.

Photo of Jeff Gamet and Christine Herivel in The Bag
Jeff Gamet and Christine Herivel
in The Bag
J.Jackson's The Bag, directed by Brady Darnell, is a Pinteresque, dark comedy revolving around mistaken identity and untimely death—Donald (Jeff Gamet) comes home to find that his wife, Carol (Christine Herivel), has let an old woman into the house thinking it was his mother. The dialogue exhibits a budding talent for the tangential repartee so fundamental to theatre of the absurd, and the action mirrors the script much in the way a funhouse mirror distorts reality. This has possibilities as a scene from Donald's absurd life.

Photo of Larry Epstein, Robert Byron Markle, and Jeff Chacon in Scene from a Trailer Park
Larry Epstein, Robert Byron Markle, and
Jeff Chacon in Scene from a Trailer Park
Could you imagine if the three stooges were cast in a white trash version of Waiting for Godot? It would probably resemble Cyrus Green's Scene from a Trailer Park, where two good old boys, Zeke (Jeff Chacon) and Charlie (Larry Epstein) take advantage of their even-dumber friend, Danny (Robert Byron Markle), getting him in over his head in a drinking game where the participants try to trap a ball between their heads and a brick wall. This type of sophomoric humor made SNL, SCTV, and others, mainstays of late-night young adult television.

Halfway between a dance and a dialogue, Lost and Found, written by Mark Ogle and directed by Nancy Thomas, attempts to verbalize the dynamics of left brain, right brain, anima-animus interaction. Unfortunately, this type of concept drama is handled much more effectively and elegantly by choreography rather than verbosity, and the script ends up sounding like a cliché-ridden Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus parody.

Is there any place on the planet that says conspicuous consumption and moral decrepitude louder than Las Vegas? In Burning Love, written and directed by Jeff Chacon, a burned-out Elvis impersonator, Earl (Chacon), who performs quickie marriages at a drive-through stand somewhere just off the strip, finally faces the absurdity of his life one night when asked to marry two strung-out drunks (Shari Myers and Jonathan Bertschinger), who are more interested in getting it on than taking their vows. While the dialogue falters at times, the situation remains interesting until a second couple shows up. These "true believers" get Earl to believe again in the value of his service. This is just too kitsch for me. I was hoping that Earl, in a scene parallel to It's a Beautiful Life, would contemplate drowning himself in the vast lake in front of The Bellagio, while the synchronized fountains played "Ode to Billy Joe".

Bootstrap Productions Snapshot Theatre: Spring Break runs through May 27th at the Federal Theatre. 303-399-4662.

Bob Bows


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