Story: In conjunction with Vital VOICE Magazine and Pearl Vodka, That Uppity Theatre Company recently presented eight vignettes by as many playwrights, 10-minute pieces that explore comic and dramatic issues with a focus on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people.
Highlights: Given the time constraints built into the festival’s theme, each offering by its nature presents a somewhat superficial treatment. Still, the variety of stories was given a rousing reception at a Sunday matinee by a sold-out house. In fact, all four performances last weekend played to full houses.
Referring to that fact, organizers Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, and Vital VOICE CEO/publisher Darin Slyman, announced that next year’s presentation will be performed at a larger venue to accommodate their growing audiences.
Other Info: Following pre-show entertainment by Michelle Mynx, Gravity Plays Favorites and Ricky Phoenix, BRIEFS offered an octet of short works sandwiched around an intermission. Best of the eight would seem to be the finale, Donald Miller’s amusing twist on politics called Strange Bedfellows.
Eric Dean White gave a polished portrayal of a gay man who surprises his new lover of three months with the shocking news that he’s a Republican. In this case, it’s the liberal half of the couple, played by Rich Scharf, who makes stereotypical statements that White’s character calmly and logically refutes. It’s an interesting and amusing take on the old ‘judging a book by its cover’ bromide, directed in well modulated fashion by Michael Perkins.
The show began with a witty piece by Brigham Mosley titled Buggery. A pair of Victorian-era gentlemen, dressed only in underwear, top hat and pronounced mustaches, send notes to each other via a pulley amusingly displayed between the two and below some wry observations on Perkins’ video display. Director Ryan Foizey and his players, Ben Watts and Pete Winfrey, made this an amusing and ironic little piece looking at carnal desires beneath those British stiff upper lips.
Theresa Masters wrote and directed Lucky, a dramatic study of an abuse victim (Rachel Hanks), who tersely rejects overtures of help by a social worker (Paige Russell), who suspects that Hanks’ character has been severely and regularly beaten by her male partner. Alaina Appleby plays a friend who picks up the abuse victim to take her home. With only three characters in the story, it’s almost immediately obvious what its conclusion will be, draining the drama of much of its potential impact.
Tabia Lau’s effort, In the Water, focuses on two lesbians who absorb the news of their teen daughter’s coming out in radically different ways. While Rachel is understanding and accepting of the revelation, her partner Maggie is angry and frightened of its consequences. Under Bonnie Taylor’s precise direction, the eternal controversy about nature vs. nurture is played out with a twist.
Lipkin’s contribution as both writer and director is titled Ready and looks at the emotional fatigue experienced by Joanna, a lesbian who has grown tired of one-night stands, but also has gone through several failed relationships. Meghan Maguire smoothly interprets Joanna’s many moods and struggles to find happiness, assisted by Sara Hamilton as her close friend and confidante.
Not My Father’s Son is a clichéd bit conceived and performed by Zachary Alan Lee (aka Desire Declyne), about a drag queen who idolized his father growing up and now sees himself as surely a disappointment to dear old dad, even while being true to his nature. While it still has some relevance, this piece seems dated, covering familiar territory that audiences have seen before.
Lee Anne Mathews crisply directed Donna Hoke’s insightful piece, Sharp Corner, in which heterosexual Ellie has a one-night stand with her long-time best friend, Vincent. He tells her that he nonetheless remains gay, even as she doubts that fact given his performance in the sack with her. Alyssa Ward and Michael Amoroso offer concise and consistent portrayals of their diverse characters, while Hoke’s script maintains its integrity.
Messages Deleted is a drama by Rich Espey that also seems to be served past its expiration date. Directed by Christopher Limber, it features John Wolbers as Mark, the lover of a young man named David (Jeffrey Wright) who has never come out to his family. When tragedy strikes and Mark finally meets David’s brusque father, Gene (Chuck Brinkley), he walks a fine line between revealing his true identity and honoring David’s wishes. Again, this scenario still has relevance, but yet seems somewhat dated in 2014.
Utilizing the talents of many writers and actors, BRIEFS continues to grow in popularity with each annual edition.
Play: BRIEFS: The Third Annual Festival of Short LGBT Plays
Company: That Uppity Theatre Company
Venue: La Perla, 312 North Eighth Street
Dates: Run concluded
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of John Lamb