For the period of slightly over a month that this blog has as of yet been in existence, I have not had the chance to report on a theatrical event that I was actively involved in. However, since the first night of the Delray Beach Playhouse’s inaugural Playwrights’ Festival was far too interesting to leave unexamined, I suppose there’s a first time for everything!
The event presented staged readings of a selection of unpublished and unproduced new short plays by local playwrights. Marianne Regan had the massive responsibility of helming the festival and directing nearly 30 actors in staged readings of eight different short plays staged across two performances. Though we convened for only a few rehearsals, I very much enjoyed getting to work with her and with the many other experienced and talented performers involved in the production.
First in the evening’s lineup was Todd Caster’s courtroom thriller Burden Of Proof, in which a young woman named Rhonda Knox is on trial for the cold-blooded murder for her boss. I played key witness Trish Aikens, whose secret relationship with the defendant throws one of many wrenches into the investigation.
I will not, of course offer any opinions on my own performance, but I will say that my castmates certainly held their own as attorneys, a judge, the defendant, and the rest of the eccentric array of witnesses called on for testimony, all of whom were Rhonda’s coworkers at futuristic startup ARTPAT.
There was plenty of humor in the engaging script as well as plenty of suspense. In Caster’s masterful set-up, at least two of the witnesses questioned have plausible motives for the crime themselves, and the slow accumulation of facts and evidence definitely seemed to keep the audience on their toes.
However, I wasn’t entirely sure whether the play’s ending comes across as a genuinely foreshadowed twist or a gimmick chosen mostly for shock value. I also doubt it was entirely realistic, but it certainly drew some big laughs from the audience!
Since I was off-duty as a performer after this first play of the night, I was allowed to retreat to the back of the house for the other three shows of the evening, which was the first time I was able to watch all three in full.
Next up was A Good Night, which was written by Bob Lind and starred John Zambito and Laurie Tanner as a “man” and a “woman” who are revealed to be Santa Claus and his wife. She wants him to retire from his yearly gift-giving duties in order to spend more time with her, and he just wants to keep doing the work he loves. This play contained a few zingers in its dialogue and explored an interesting concept, but the pair’s debate occasionally got a little repetitive and both characters seemed relatively flat.
The work may have been more dimensional if the “Santa Claus” character had been given much of a personality besides his passion for his job or the shrewish Mrs. Claus character had been a little more fleshed out and motivated by something besides her blinding selfishness. As it is, it’s hard to fathom how or why Santa put up with her for their many years of marriage!
After a brief intermission, director extraordinaire Marianne Regan briefly returned to the stage to share some somber news: that Lisa Bruna, one of the playwrights whose work was to be featured that evening, had passed away only the previous weekend. Thus, it was both fitting and a bit heartbreaking that her play, Godwise was probably the highlight of the night.
The play was set in the early 1960s and portrayed the story of a housewife named Connie, well-played by Jill Brown, who gets the shock of her life when her garden-variety dissatisfaction with her adulterous scumbag of a husband is much enlivened by some divine intervention.
Clad in a striking and shimmering black blouse, Victoria Goulet materializes as the Greek goddess Hera after Connie unthinkingly wishes for some heavenly help, and from the moment that she appeared, the charismatic actress sparkled both literally and figuratively.