SUMMERPLAY 2017

The Man in the Hat - Eric Cuestas-Thompson and Carol Wieltschnig
Eric Cuestas-Thompson (left) and Carol Wieltschnig perform “The Man in the Hat,” one of nine 10-minute plays at the Summerplay one-act play festival. Photo courtesy of Changing Scene Theatre Northwest

A brilliant barrage of theatrical quickies

By Dave R. Davison
dave@tacomaweekly.com

The theatrical company called The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, which recently pulled up stakes and moved from the Kitsap Peninsula to Tacoma, is in the midst of its annual festival of new, one-act plays called “Summerplay.” The event consists of nine one-act plays of about 10 minutes each. All nine are included in every performance of the festival. Each play is by a different playwright and none has ever been performed before.

Directed by the dauntless Pavlina Morris, who is the founder and artistic director of Changing Scene, the sequence of plays bounces right along like songs on a record album. With minimal sets, the plays are character-driven and are performed by a cast composed of some of the South Sound’s most adventurous actors.

The plays deal with themes like parent-child relationships, philosophical riddles, affairs of the heart and general silliness. There is tragedy and there is comedy; realism and surrealism.

One of the high points is David MacGregor’s “The Trouble with Cashews,” which is performed by Nick Fitzgerald and Julie Cole. Here, a brother and sister are at an extended family gathering when they observe their aunt picking through the mixed nuts and eating only the cashews. Their conversation is quick-wittedly wicked as they cut to the meat of the matter: that the world is divided up into reptilian-humans (those still operating on a primal level and taking as much as they can get away with) and the “human-humans” who have overcome such short-sighted attitudes and try to function for the greater good. While funny, the skit is actually frightfully true. The ending delivers some of the best laughs of the evening.

Mark Harvey Levine’s military comedy “SNAFU” is also an audience favorite. The piece makes fun of the kind of stock characters and conventional features of war movies. (The soldier who shows a picture of his “girl back home” is always the first to get shot.) There are also some great puns involving office supplies and the absurd feature of an army etymologist trying to assign a name to a hill before the squad can sally forth to take it from the enemy.

Among the more tragic works is David Lewison’s “Persephone at the Motel 6,” which depicts a mother and daughter coming to realize that they are trapped by a lack of choices. Sylvia (Mary Sheehan) is an aging mother trapped in a dead-end job as a waitress while her grown daughter Ruthie (Michelle Noel) is suffering the common fate of young women who sacrifice their futures in order to attach themselves to foolish men who refuse to grow up.

Summerplay 2017 is the 15th year that the festival has taken place. The performances are held in the Dukesbay Theater at 508 6th Ave. #10 (in the same building as the Grand Cinema, except the entrance is around to the side). The festival runs through Sept. 23 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee performance on Sun. Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. At $15 a ticket this is a bargain. For further information, visit summerplay2017.brownpapertickets.com or call (360) 710-5440.

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