First off, a quick apology: I had been all set to meet up with John Koensgen a few weeks back, and try and get an interview with him and some of the cast and crew of the upcoming show he was directing for New Theatre of Ottawa. I even sat in on a bit of rehearsal one afternoon, and it was all looking pretty awesome. But then I never managed to get any actual interviewing DONE on that occasion, and I fell rather nastily ill on my days off the following week and couldn’t reschedule. It all left me feeling rather terrible. You know, not ‘Capital Critics Circle’ terrible (even I’m not THAT awful), but still pretty crumby. So sorry, New Theatre, let me try and make it up to ya!
Also, when I say upcoming show, that’s kind of a misnomer. Because the ambitious finale to their current season is THE EXTREMELY SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL, a collection of eleven plays chosen from some forty-odd submissions culled from an open call months ago. Criteria for these original works were fairly simple…a play of ten minutes or less, for 4 or fewer actors, minimal set, and preferably amazing (implied). In fact, yours truly was all set to write a bit up and send it in myself, until I totally didn’t do that. Which is probably for the best…I don’t think anything I had would’ve measured up.
The 11 winning plays are presented back to back, with one intermission after the first six. They come from 10 different authours (all Ottawa folks, and Gentleman Geoff McBride even managed himself a twofer!), and are brought to life by four terrific actors…Adam Pierre (one of this year’s Ottawa Theatre School grads, and himself one of the contributing Festival scribes), Kate Hurman, Brian Stewart and Kristina Watt. . Thanks to some funky light and sound design, and some no-frills staging, the transitions between shows are smooth and fun. And the shows themselves, while obviously everyone will have their faves, are a pretty solid bunch…laughing out loud WILL be a common occurrence at this festival, I predict.
Koensgen delivered a heartfelt address before the opening night crowd, and has plans to turn the ESPF into an annual event, good news indeed. A show like this, maybe even in expanded form, seems a beautiful, slap-happy and refreshing way to unite playwright, player and audience alike, in my humble opinion. And quite frankly, the more Theatre Festivals (even a shorty like this one) the merrier. And, in the shorty-form spirit (even if I TOTALLY didn’t win the Extremely Short Story Competition on Lawrence Aronovitch’s blog, dagnabbit), here now are my individual reviews for the eleven selected plays…each review exactly eleven words long (this seemed like a good idea when I thought of it…here goes..!):
AMBITION by Adam Pierre: Angry and hopeful, a defiant life brought to life. Impressive.
The BRIDGE by Jessica Anderson: Two people, two bad reasons. Attempted suicide will never be funnier.
The DOG, THE CAT, AND THE FISH by Andrea Connell: The RASHOMON of socially awkward internet dating short plays. With pets.
FLOAT by Kevin and James Smith: Days of glory recalled…never a champion, but head held high.
HAPPY by Tina Prud’homme: Mismatched, shortsighted criminals, working their worst scam yet. Sweet and silly.
JUST DESSERTS by Kelley Tish Baker: The high cost of dying, a terrific clash of warring ideologies.
LATE by Lawrence Aronovitch: Old flames, faulty technology, bacon cheeseburgers and salad…Oh, the awkward!
The ORRERY by Pierre Brault: Soft sci-fi meditation on love, loss, and stars, all shining bright.
VICIOUS by David O’Meara: Kristina Watt as Sid Vicious for the EPIC WIN. ‘Nuff said.
WHEN THE WORLD BLEW AWAY by Geoff McBride: The gut shot of the night; war and tragedy exposed beautifully.
YOU WIN by Geoff McBride: Hilarious take on life, worthy of Douglas Adams (and Tim Horton).
That’s it for now…check the shows out, judge for yourself!
Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)