Two days, six brand new plays by the under-25 crowd…yes, it’s day two of YOUTH INFRINGEMENT 2014 and I just managed to see the second half of the festival last night. I’d already been treated to THE EVER-PRESENT WITNESS, LUCY and THE ANOMALY the previous night, now it was time to collect the complete set. I was in good company, from galpal Rebecca Laviolette taking care of box office, Infringement vet Nick Amott at the candy stand, and YI mentor and derbygirl Nancy Kenny taking in the shows (have you contributed to her Indigogo campaign yet? I’ll wait while you do that). And of course, proud producer Lily Sutherland making sure day two ran smoothly. Which as far as I could tell, it most certainly did.
First up for the night was Mark MacDonald’s BLAZER directed by David Hania. An all-dude cast shares the stage here with a multi-purpose projection screen and a few dozen empty beer cans, for the bro-tastic tale of Tom (Matt Hertendy), Simon (Andrew Maloney), Shayne (Dustin Roy), and Rob (a slap-happy Will Lafrance). Tom, the straight man of his group of eternally delinquent manchild buddies, is about to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend. All he needs is to keep his lucky blazer intact until then…which is of course the moment when it becomes irresistible to all his buddies. Wackiness ensues!
Yes, this isn’t exactly the most substantial of shows, a fact about which it seems giddily unapologetic. This a frat party with an audience, folks, and the lads do indeed have a lot of fun with it, and for the most part I had fun right along with them. There’s some nifty multimedia storytelling worked into the mix as well, and the cast is pretty spot-on for the task at hand…being a bunch of drunken, irresponsible boy-men. Good times.
Next up was Jeremy Piamonte’s LOVE AND WAR, directed by Chelsea MacKay. A period tale about Helen (Kate Boone), a WWII wife and teacher telling her story to a group of visitors. With an ever-present smile, she tells how she met the love of her young life, soft-spoken Ron (Matthew Skilton), their plans, dreams, and how the war changed all that. Kate Boone gets the lions share of the work in this one (although props to Skilton for his earnest and honest Ron), and tackles a sneakily complex script with impressive chops. She was one of the standout performers for me at last year’s festival, delivering fantastic work in NEBRASKA, and is even better this time around. And huge shout to writer Piamonte, with probably the best script at this year’s festival. Heady subject matter, presented well, acted great, staged just so…a seriously solid show.
After a touch of improv goodness from Lafrance and some of the lovely lads in the studio (pro tip: NEVER let the audience make the rules when Nancy Kenny is in your audience. She lives for that shit), it was back in for the final show of the night, Laura McLean’s CLASSIC HORROR MOVIE MISTAKES, directed by Rachel Worton. There were, in clear violation of YI tradition, no shows taking place in limbo at this year’s festival, so thank fuck at least ONE show had zombies in at. Taking place in a bunkered basement during a zombie apocalypse, Felix (David Coleman) and Leanne (Marissa Caldwell) are holed up with an apparently mad scientist (Aaron Lajeunesse, and his hair), who is trying to teach them the titular horror movie errors to avoid (like what weapons to use, and why running is better than hiding) via his collection of VHS tapes. Scenes from the movies play out split-screen style, with our heroes on one side of the stage, and occasional moments of movie-monster-mayhem acted out on the other courtesy of Heidi Spicer, Ryan Nadon and Paul Piekoszewski. It’s a nifty conceit, and what the show lacks in polish it makes up for in gusto. Lajeunesse gets well and over the top as our nutty professor, and Piekoszewski steals more than a few scenes as the silent but deadly movie monster across the stage. A little rough in patches, but all in all a nice, raucous ending to my 2014 Infringing.
Congrats to all the participating writers, directors, stage managers, producers and everything else for what looks to be a nicely successful 16th addition of YI. If you’re hitting it up tonight, you’re in for a panel discussion treat featuring Nancy Kenny, Chris Ralph and Mary Ellis (and maybe Pat Gauthier..?), and the SUBMERGE art installation will be there ll week, plus raffles, cupcakes, live music and of course, the shows. Check it out, have some laughs, vote for your fav’rit (the winner goes on to repeat at this year’s Fringe Festival), and support local youth in theatre. Peace, love and soul, folks,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)