Review: “Hindsight 2021 Short Play Festival”

I love short play festivals. You get a bunch of different stories and a bunch of different storytellers and, should there be a lemon in the bunch, welllll… it’s over in a few minutes and you move on to the next one.

Left Edge Theatre is presenting their Hindsight 2021 Short Play Festival, featuring twelve of the almost 200 plays submitted for production consideration. Playwrights from across the country, around the world, and down Highway 12 were tasked with submitting previously unpublished, unproduced works of theatre written specifically to be produced remotely on Zoom and focused on current events.

They’ve divided them into four “Episodes” (‘Comedies about Technology’, ‘Mystery, Suspense, Fantasy’, ‘Comedy’, and ‘Drama’) with nine directors utilizing casts from a pool of 24 actors and a crew/design team of six. The episodes will be streaming in various groupings over the next four weeks. The plays are live streaming through January 17 and then available on-demand through January 31.

It’s an interesting collection of plays presented with varying degrees of success. While I wouldn’t say there’s a lemon in this bunch, there were some shows that were definitely “riper” than others. Here’s my quick take on each submission:

A. Comedies about Technology

“Sexy on Zoom”

Get Sexy on Zoom by Andrea Aptecker – (Directed by Serena Elize Flores and performed live by Melissa Claire and Corey Jackson) Proving the old axiom that ‘timing is everything’, Aptecker’s script about modern “dating” contains lines that leapt out after the events of the past week, making it tough to keep in mind it’s a comedy.

Virtual Happy Hour by Richard Castle – (Directed by Joe Winkler and performed live by Julianne Bradbury, Chris Schloemp, Serena Elize Flores, and John Browning) You have to love a script (at least I did) that references Max Headroom, Holmes and Yoyo AND Pink Lady and Jeff. Most audiences will be scratching their heads and furiously googling, but I appreciated the playwright’s trip down bad memory lane and the pitfalls that come with virtual gatherings.  

Alexa the Liar by Guy Newsham – (Directed by Argo Thompson and pre-recorded with Mark Bradbury and Julianne Bradbury) Our generation’s HAL 2000 swaps gender and takes the next logical step to help a single guy find someone to <ahem> open his pod bay doors. 

B. Mystery, Suspense, Fantasy

“Stinkiest Thing”

Sweatpants by Linda Lau and Rae Mansfield – (Directed by Argo Thompson and performed live with Paige Picard, Grace Kent, and Devin Dub) A serial killer is loose.  SPOILER ALERT! What are the chances he’ll show up on cam?

PerSEVERance by David Lipschutz – (Directed by Cindi Brillhart-True and pre-recorded with Anthony Martinez, Cindi Brillhart-True, and Kimberly Kalember) Presenting Wes Craven’s Nunsense. No, seriously, horror may be the toughest genre to do in theatre. This piece about a haunted (?) Fitness Center (?) definitely benefited from being on a streaming medium. It’s Lipschutz’s Zoom contribution to the “found footage” genre.

Stinkiest Thing by Adam Szudrich – (Directed by Lulu Thompsxn and pre-recorded with Lulu Thompsxn, Quenby Dolgushkin, and Katrina Dolgushkin) One father’s children’s story adapted for theatre… sort of. Director Thompsxn uses their own pitch-perfect narration, puppetry, animation, and dance to tell the visually entrancing story of the stinkiest thing in the world and its relationship with a child. While I understand Thompsxn’s reasoning for including dance (they wanted a genuine human connection), it just seemed out of step with everything else. There’s a fully animated short here just waiting to be made.

C. Comedy

“Surf’s Up”

No Regrets by John Minigan (Directed by Paige Picard and performed live by Abbey Lee) Fully Committed set in a print shop with Lee as the harried customer service rep and the customer.

Surf’s Up by Ken Levine (Directed by David Yen and performed live by Corey Jackson and Jazmine Pierce) This piece about a father chucking his career and trying to convince his grown-up daughter to chuck hers and go away with him on a search for the perfect wave came across as sitcom-y, which shouldn’t surprise as playwright Ken Levine had a lengthy writing career in television (MASH, Cheers, The Simpsons, Frasier).

An Interview with a George by Greg Vovos (Directed by Argo Thompson and pre-recorded with David Yen and Denise Elia-Yen) Nobody likes a good dark comedy more than I, but how the hell this melancholy piece can be described as a comedy is beyond me. I found little humor in this well-acted but ultimately depressing look at a job applicant with mental health issues (that go beyond his imaginary dinosaur friend) and an interviewer who isn’t in much better shape. Harvey it ain’t.

D. Drama

“Seconds”

Seconds by Ken Preuss (Directed by Felicia Freitas and performed live by Laura Livezey and Rosie Carriker Smothers) First dates can be awkward. Second dates can be really awkward when they have to happen over Zoom. The leads are quite engaging as two women trying to figure out where the hell things go from here.

No Right Time by Jackie Martin (Directed by Denise Elia-Yen and pre-recorded with John Browning and Chris Schloemp) A powerful dramatization of the conversation that too many of our frontline medical workers and their loved ones must be having since March. It should be required viewing for every fucking COVID denier and anti-masker.

Ava Hearts Riley by Cris Eli Blak (Directed by Argo Thompson and pre-recorded with Paige Picard and Jazmine Pierce) The only piece to directly address issues of race. Sucks to have to come out to your parents as gay. Really sucks to have to tell them your partner is black. Why is that? Hmmmm…  

**********

There’s a lot to like in each “episode”, but if you only have the time or inclination to watch one day’s worth of shows, I’d steer to you to the days the ‘Drama’ episode is running.  It’s comprised of the strongest scripts with direction and acting to match.

The Left Edge Theatre Hindsight 2021 Short Play Festival runs through January 31.

Dates, times, and ticket prices vary. Click HERE for more information.

Screen captures courtesy of Left Edge Theatre

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