Produced by Ann Hurd
Directed by Graydon Schlicter, Liesl Jackson, Matthew Martin, David Foy Bauer & Courtney Sara Bell.
This year’s Passages festival marks Theatre Unleashed’s third year of showcasing one act plays with new writers, directors and actors on their lovely and magical little ‘garrett’ stage above Crown City Theatre in NoHo.
I love one act plays. Writers tend to get a little dangerous, actors take more chances and directors get playful. When you limit the time you have the stakes get much higher, and every word spoken, every moment on the stage becomes all the more exciting, or at least it should.
Theatre Unleashed’s selection of plays this year is a tremendous example of when short plays fulfill their potential and become everything that they aspire to be.
Five plays, all performed back to back with no intermission, all playing with the theme of the classics, remixed.
The first, “Telemachus, Friend,” starts the evening off strong. A musical set in the wild west, about two friends who fall for the same woman and try to maintain a gentlemanly rivalry to the bitter end. All sung with passionate and sublime authenticity by these thoughtful and talented actors, TR Krupa, Kristen Bennett, Jeff Blumberg and the wonderful narrations of Lindsay Zana and Mel Hampton. It’s an unexpected and unusual piece, charming and real and I absolutely loved it!
The second, “Revisiting the Cave,” is an interesting glimpse into a relationship between two friends, one firmly anchored in her insular, stoner world and the other growing far beyond what once seemed like freedom. How clear it is sometimes once we step out of our lives for a while, what it is that holds us back from our potential. And it’s really nice to see two women in roles that could have easily been played by men. Francesca Gamez and Lena Raff were subtle, believable and excellent.
The third, “A Portrait of Oscar Wilde,” is a conversation between Oscar Wilde and his most famous nemesis and creation Dorian Gray. Wilde, seemingly at the end of his life debating his purpose with narcism personified is an interesting way to deliver some of Wilde’s most iconic lines and humanize him a little in the process. Damien Luvara had fun camping it up a little as Gray and Samwise Aaron played Wilde with a simplicity I have not seen before, perhaps giving us a look at Wilde as his most vulnerable.
The fourth, “Cyrano Di Padua,” is a lovely twist on the classic Cyrano De Bergerac. With Cyrano as a much more confidant man, nose and all, who actually gets the girl…a sweet turn of events in an always tragic story. Jeremy Michael Kozeluh was terrific as Cyrano, and Nate Champion, Kimberly Sadovich and Madi Vodane were all wonderful, lively and compelling as Petruchio, Katherine and Bianca.
And finally, by by no means lastly, the fifth, “Get A Job.” Imagine if you will that there exists an afterlife for literary characters - a chance for them to redeem themselves, to make better choices perhaps, and to follow a different path. Medea, played brilliantly by Libby Letlow, has found her calling as an employment counsellor, and Hamlet, played by Michael Marcel with a wistful brilliance, is her latest project. This is such a clever and wonderfully written and acted play…if I had to have a favorite, this would be it…although to be fair it’s pretty hard to chose between such a diverse and eclectic mix of genres and themes.
Sometimes one act festivals, especially those with definitive themes, are a bit ‘samey,’ a bit predictable after the first couple of plays. But Passages certainly is nothing like that. Each play, although not at all competing with the next, seemed to challenge the other to be really, really good. To push the actors, and the audience, in a very short space of time, to really fulfill the prophecy of the “classics remixed” theme in a way that isn’t obvious, isn’t predictable and stogy, and still hold true.
This is a really successful group of plays. I’m not sure how they make their selection, but they surely must have been thrilled to bits to have five plays that are so strong and well crafted with actors so competent and exciting to watch.
Passages at Theatre Unleashed is an excellent way to spend a little over an hour of your time, I can absolutely guarantee that you will not be disappointed. I had a brilliant time, well done to all!
I highly recommend Passages, Theatre Unleashed. It’s only up for a short time, so please do yourself a favor and go and see it.
As a side note “Get A Job” will be performed as part of the NoHo Plaza Entertainment Series in NoHo Plaza on Thursday August 11th…for FREE!
Theatre Unleashed, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 91602.
August 5 - 20, Friday and Saturday at 8PM