Small plays tackle big issues
Playwrights’ Round Table has its usual grab bag of short-attention-span theater with “Launch 2020,” a collection of eight mini-plays, all roughly about 10 minutes in length. As is typical in a mixed program, some hit the mark more than others. In this outing, both silly comedies and heartfelt dramas make the most impact.
Adam Szudrich’s “Rosa and Leo” is the most fully realized of the offerings, grabbing the attention with its opening scene in which Rosa (Cindy Karr) slams the phone down on Leo (Mark Davids) with the single word, “Liar.” But Leo has her number, both literally and figuratively, and he dials again in this unconventional romance of the heartbreaking kind.
The two met in a German concentration camp and haven’t seen each other in decades. And in just a few moments, this exquisitely crafted look at the lives of two characters who endured the unthinkable encompasses the big issues: betrayal, loyalty, forgiveness, love. Directed with care by Kate Denson, it’s beautifully performed.
Jackie Martin’s “Hallmark Doesn’t Make Cards for Us” likewise touchingly but not mawkishly concerns itself with forgiveness. Can a mother (Rockie Kobrin) ever make up for the sins of the past? Director Sally Daykin nicely contrasts Kobrin’s quietness against the more volatile Kaley Kicmal, playing a daughter for whom old wounds have never healed.
More fine acting is on view in Dan O’Day’s “The Last Word,” compassionately directed by Paul Castaneda. Jessica Fernando and Eric Kuritzky are instantly relatable as daughter and father grappling with aging, memories and legacy. It’s an intriguingly clearheaded look at the struggle of growing old — from the viewpoint of two generations.
On the comedy side, Ava Love Hanna’s “Big Brad Wolf ” is a winner. The silly romp imagines what would happen if the evil fairy-tale wolf of “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” renounced his ways. The writing is smart. “You taste like parental guilt, like fear of change,” the Wolf (James Blaisdell in a spot-on performance) tells a pig. And that’s this play’s kick: Under the funny jokes, it has something to say about dreamers — the people who follow their own paths and don’t let tradition or society’s pressures stand in their way.
Bethany Dickens’ direction keeps the energy high, and bonus points for a slyly ambiguous ending.
Fringe veteran Katie Thayer’s “Dying Laughing,” directed by Rob Cunha, doesn’t go for depth — except for the fact that its two protagonists are buried underground. This silly collection of puns and nonsense is delivered with panache by Nathan James and Chris Scott, though the show could use a bigger end punch.
Likewise, “The Satin Worshippers” is acted with pizazz, especially by Durell Brown, who demonstrates keen comic timing. But director Rochelle Curbow Wheeler hasn’t set the pace quite fast enough for playwright Peter Dakutis’s silliness. On the other hand, I have to approve of comedy based on a spelling error. Brown also appears in Bethany Dickens’
“Sheba,” a sex-driven comedy directed by Isabella James that doesn’t give the audience any reason to care about its characters, making it hard to invest in their story.
Finally, Molly Smith’s “The Doll” goes for a “Twilight Zone” feel with a couple’s quest to create a perfect baby. But the play, directed by Chuck Dent, verges on offputting with its focus on wholly unlikable people. And, strangely, the climax is given away by the title.