Ten 10 Minute Plays -09/16/1999
Plays: “Mrs. Sorken,” by Christopher Durang, “The Cabin,” by Paul Bawek, “Out of Body,” by Beverly Cooper, “The Arbitrator,” by Rita Marie Nibasa, “Teeth,” by Tina Howe, “Paradise #3,” by Christopher Denham, “Observing the Opposite Sex,” by Brian LaDuca,
Parkland College Theater.
Parkland College Theater, 2400 West Bradley, Champaign. Box office: 351-2528.
It’s become a tradition -- in the fall, Parkland College Theater presents a program of ten 10-minute plays, affording a host of different directors and actors some experience in the short form.
This year, Parkland’s ten-minute play fest also seems to serve as a chance for University of Illinois theater students to branch out, with five actors, five directors and two playwrights from the ranks of U of I students.
The ‘99 bill of fare includes works by four of America’s leading playwrights, accented by three new plays by local writers. Big guns Christopher Durang, Tina Howe, David Ives and Lanford Wilson are all well represented on the Parkland stage, while local scribes Rita Marie Nibasa, Christopher Denham and Brian LaDuca (the latter two U of I students) offer world premieres of their latest efforts.
Under the overall artistic direction of Randi Jennifer Collins Hard, the program showcases comedy, drama, and something in between; 20-something, 40-something, and even 60-something points of view; a little romance, a little swearing, a few surprises; and an interesting mix of styles and themes. The second half of the program is a bit stronger than the first, so be sure to wait through intermission.
Among the plays, Wilson’s “Stoop,” sharply directed by Andrew B. Carter, is a stand-out. At first “Stoop” seems like a mild comedy about three ladies sitting on some steps passing the time, but darker implications seep out as it moves along. Performed with impeccable timing by Linda Van Polen, Janice Rothbaum, and the silent-but-funny Carol A. Becher, “Stoop” shines.
Ives’ “Words, Words, Words,” directed by George Dakis, is also a bright light. This very funny piece -- about three chimpanzees trying to write “Hamlet” -- has been seen locally as part of Ives’ “All In The Timing” compilation. It works just as well on a second viewing, with a second cast and director. Witty and smart, theatrical and thought-provoking, “Words, Words, Words” gives actors Jared Beckley, Brad Mehrtens, and Nicole Adair Patton the chance to relax and have fun with this monkey business.
Other plays of note include Howe’s sharp “Teeth,” featuring a terrific comic performance by Jonathan Kite; LaDuca’s “Observing the Opposite Sex,” a sweet, well-written take on college boys looking for love with fine character work from actors Jeremy W. Harrison and Corey Dane; and “The Arbitrator,” Nibasa’s blistering look at culture and gender clashes.
Working with slighter material, Liz Biondi (a not-so-great friend in Beverly Cooper’s “Out of Body”) and Tracy Callahan (as a student in Ellen Peterson’s “Learning to Drive”) also turn in well-realized performances.
Thomas V. Korder’s lighting design is excellent, with especially nice effects on Denham’s grungy “Paradise #3” and Wilson’s wonderful “Stoop.”
Spare scenic contributions by technical director David G. Dillman are also effective.