Halloween and Thanksgiving are, y’know, fun and all, I’ll grant you (pumpkin pie tastes GOOD, and that’s the truth). But I’m starting to believe this time of year is more notable for being when good theatre comes in small packages. Just weeks ago we had the second edition of the hard-rocking FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL, and now we are treated to another tapas-style theatrical serving with the return of New Theatre Ottawa’s EXTREMELY SHORT NEW PLAY FESTIVAL. After an open call for submissions of new, ten-minute or so original works from Ottawa playwrights, New Theatre and artistic director John Koensgen chose their ten fav’rit ones, and have crammed them all into a single evening of fun at the Arts Court Theatre. All ten shows play back to back (with an intermission), treating one and all to a night crammed to the bursting with enough goodness that you can’t help but find stuff to love.
All ten shows-within-the-show are directed by Koensgen his own bad self, and performed (in some combination or other) by the crackerjack quartet of Brian Stewart, Colleen Sutton (OTS alum, woohoo!), Maureen Smith and Eric Craig. The shows themselves are: ALICE by Karen Balcome; SEEING by Laurie Fyffe; TERMINAL JOURNEY by Jessica Anderson; LOYAL OPPOSITION by Caitlin Corbett (OTS again, yay!; THE TOP JOB by Wynn Quon; COACH OF THE YEAR by Pierre Brault; DENIAL by Stephanie Turple; THERE’S MORE TO THE PICTURE by Tim Ginley; THE BOOK OF DANIEL by Lawrence Aronovitch; and OUT OF GAS by Keith Davidson. Presentation of the pieces was similar to last years, with a simple backdrop (this time featuring some cool beans projections courtesy of Andrew Alexander and Jeremy O’Neill), minimal props, and new, nifty word-themed costumes from designer Vanessa Imeson. With a cavalcade of shows like this, everyone’s gonna have their fav’rits…I particularly dug the hilarious OUT OF GAS for sheer fun. Eric Craig, who I had never seen on stage before, was just bloody phenomenal in COACH OF THE YEAR, and I adored the interplay of Sutton and Smith in the great LOYAL OPPOSITION. Balcome’s ALICE, the only one-hander in the mix this year (and deftly handled by Maureen Smith), set its melancholy and thoughtful tone beautifully. Tim Ginley’s THERE’S MORE TO THE PICTURE made great use of technology in the presentation, and TOP JOB features some of the more inspired theatrical applications of a gorilla suit yet. TERMINAL JOURNEY mixed the tragic and the comic very smoothly indeed, and BOOK OF DANIEL was maybe the most fully realized piece of the evening. SEEING featured some amazing work all around, and I’d love to see it played out longer, while DENIAL featured a fascinatingly non-specific and frustratingly funny look at how we see things. There was tons in this show of shows to love, and you should do yourself the favour of getting out and seeing which ones strike YOUR fancy. And now, in accordance with my writeup from the first festival, here now are ten ten-word reviews of the individual shows (and okay, these aren’t particularly insightful reviews but gimme a break, I only got ten words..!):
ALICE – A Mother remembers, and then tries to climb a tree.
SEEING – Husband and wife with haunted pasts, and a loaded gun.
LOYAL OPPOSITION – Two women wage quiet war, in the shadow of Laurier.
TERMINAL JOURNEY – Airport security deals with death, anger, protocol, and bad manners.
THE TOP JOB – Monkeyshines abound at interview prep for Canada’s biggest banking gig.
COACH OF THE YEAR – A Coach’s hidden (or forgotten) past catches up with him.
DENIAL – Did she see what she saw? Can something be nothing?
THERE’S MORE TO THE PICTURE – Neil Young soundtrack to a tragedy…what’s the real story?
THE BOOK OF DANIEL – Flashback to rabbis and teachers in the summer of 1976.
OUT OF GAS – Why redneck couples should gas up BEFORE committing the crime.
The Festival runs at Arts Court Theatre until the 10th, so get going! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)