Disclaimer: Mrs. Drexel has a friendly relationship with many players involved with this festival. She believes that only an ass-hatted dinglehopper of a n00b would let petty human emotions interfere with a critique.
Critique by Kitty Drexel
ZOOM — There have been strikingly few play festivals since the quarantine began in March. Festivals are relatively easy to produce despite their many moving parts. Performance teams can schedule their own work hours and pace. Everyone comes together at tech rehearsal to complete the beast. Audiences are guaranteed even if it’s only made up of participants and their partners. And, as my massage therapist (a fringe theatre enthusiast) told me yesterday as they were vigorously massaging my shoulders in a darkened salon, it’s exciting to see a play come together, rehearsal to performance. The allure is strong.
The Lilac Players presented its very first 48-Hour Play festival on the evening of Sunday, November 15. It was a successful evening: nine plays were streamed over YouTube to their rowdy fans who expressed their appreciation through the live chat. Jokes were made. Fun was had.
The best plays explore relationships. Audiences learn about these relationships by how they play (hey-o!) out on. Environment, behavioral quirks, time period, costuming, etc. are all secondary niceties. No matter how funny a situational scene is, an audience won’t laugh if they aren’t interested in its people.
So too were the best plays of the Lilac Players’ festival. It’s Okay is a prime example. In it, a hetero couple navigates new-parenthood with their insightful therapist. The couple discusses their issues; the therapist advises; the audience sees the couple grow together. It was the most engaging play of the festival. By seeing the couple grow, we come to care about them. It’s a simple premise but unerringly effective.
Audiences don’t want to watch characters they care nothing about chatting about things that don’t affect them or, as was frequently the case on Sunday evening, list comical situations that weren’t funny without context. We want to be shown how comical situations affect a play’s characters, not told. Closing Up the Library did this. Azathoth Solves All Your Problems For You did not. Show. Don’t tell.
The plays were intended to be original to the 48-hour experience. One or two were a little too well-written, too developed to be trusted as new material. It’s not impossible that Healing Connections was written for the festival but it seems unlikely. It’s the Thought That Counts was so performance-ready, soup to nuts, that clips from this production could be used in application packages to other festivals.
The Lilac Player’s website doesn’t define “original” on its website. If these two plays were pre-written before the performance on Sunday, it puts the authors of the other plays at a disadvantage. If this reviewer is incorrect and the two plays were written within the 48-hour period of the Lilac Players’ festival, then the playwrights displayed impressive skill at writing for a deadline.
Theatre festivals are great: a large group of people gets to perform in a show that isn’t three hours long, and the audience learns how the drama-sausage is made. Creating with a speedy deadline is good for creators. It’s not a muscle we get to flex often enough. Folx who missed the live-stream can watch the video embedded above.
Lilac Players’ 48-Hour Theatre Festival Credits:
The Group Project
By Michael DeFillippi
Directed by: Christine Chilingerian
Cast: Branigan Reed, Kathryn Noonan, Brie Frame, Tom Bourque
By Noelle Colant
Directed by: Illan Feiman Halpern
Cast: Mel Abrams, Zoe Sheinkopf, Sami Harper, Amelia Smith
Closing Up the Library
By Lorraine Fitzmaurice
Directed by: Elyssa Bjorkman
Cast: Sara Davis, Anna-Constantia Richardson
I’d Do Anything for Love, Bro
By Lorraine Fitzmaurice and Judith Garber
Directed by: Elyssa Bjorkman
Cast: Elise Ratchford, Judith Garber, S. Ayala
By Michael McAfee
Directed By: Claire Jolliffe
Cast: Theresa Griffin, Jackie Freyman
Azathoth Solves All Your Problems For You
by Sarah Rae Brown
Directed by Tyler Crosby
Cast: Diana Kennedy, Hirsh Singh
By Matthew Garlin (he/him)
Directed by: Emma Brown (she/her)
Cast: Jess Labbe (she/her)l, H. James Woodsum (he/they), Laura Gould (she/her)
By E. Rosser
Directed by Dylan Torchinsky(he/him)
Cast: Drache Bowens-Rubin, Dylan Torchinsky
It‘s The Thought That Counts
by Naomi Hinchen (she/her)
Directed by: Kaitlyn Crockett (she/they)
Cast: Alec Farquharson (he/him), Val Whiteneck (they/them), Alyssa Branciforte (they/them), Brittany Phillips (they/them)