If you are interested in The Group Repertory Theatre’s presentation of its third NINE WINNING ONE-ACTS play festival, with world premiere short plays chosen from over 250 submissions
from the English-speaking world, make a beaten path to the second floor (Upstairs) of the Lonny Chapman Theatre. Performed as one program and running through July 14th in the North Hollywood Arts District, the
event is co-produced by Belinda Howell and Helen O’Brien.
The stories here range from discrimination to suicide, and take place in locations as different as a traveling circus and an art gallery.
The quality of the one-acts varies from brilliant to average, but what matters most in the end is that these never-before-seen short works are being born on the stage and that we, the audience,
have the opportunity to be touched by their pink neon, electric yellow human roller coaster of a ride for the first time.
All nine one-acts exhibit talent and integrity. The writing as colorful as a meadow in the Summer and as sharp and clever as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during Dunkirk. The directing as full as the earth’s
orbit around the sun and the acting as deep, dignified and free as the Grand Canyon at sunset.
The three one-acts that moved this critic’s soul and spirit the most are: CLIFFORD’S by Lawson Caldwell, ART ATTACK by Cary Pepper and DESTINY AND DAMAGE by Chris Shaw Swanson.
The former concerns discrimination against a gay groom written with humanity and sincerity about a realistic world where people and opinions are not always what we would want or like them to be.
Directed by Cheryl Crosland with specificity, detail and the deftest of dramatic touches, the direction allows for the important transitions to be seen on the visages of the three characters rather than
through the dialogue.
The second one-act about two friends visiting an art gallery leaves nothing or no one spared. The language is brave, bold and cutting edge. The direction by Victor D’wayne Little courageous and brutally frank. The
last minute leaving us, the audience, shocked, breathless and wanting more.
The latter concerns a young woman’s suicide attempt interrupted by a stranger knowing more than he lets on. The words, precise, proud and powerful, force us all to confront our own fears, failings and faults.
The direction by Barbara Brownell extraordinary and exquisite in scope and scale, while yet terribly specific in emotion and body language.
All three directors assemble gifted casts that comprehend the truths and complexities of the writing.
Stand-outs include: Cynthia Bryant in WHOSE PLOT IS THIS?, Mishia Marie Johnson in ART ATTACK, Bix Barnaba in INFESTING THE MOB and
Michael Robb (Man) (DESTINY & DAMAGE) who gives a convincing turn as a Greek God in charge of the “undeclared.”
Robb uses his face and body brilliantly and beautifully in cementing the part into our conscious and sub-conscious minds.
The actor has the courage to tackle a very difficult role, and succeeds because of his vision, talent and choice of playing the part as an every man.
Nearly stealing the program is Fox Carney (Robert) (CLIFFORD’S), (He) (THE UNFORGIVEABLE SIN OF FORGIVENESS)
The veteran Group Repertory Theatre performer proves adept here at drama and comedy. In CLIFFORD’S, Carney is brilliant as a father who changes his opinion of his homosexual neighbor.
The transition comes spiritually and emotionally through his legs, arms and chest as well as his face. In SIN, the longtime stage actor makes us, the audience, flip our wigs in laughter by upending the truth.
His light and airy touch display a deeply funny comedic actor.
But running away with the festival is Doug Haverty (CLIFFORD’S) whose simple, but atomic performance stayed in this critic’s mind on the first Sunday that he saw the festival all evening long, and which in its slow but
budding brilliance proves that acting is nothing more than reacting, and genius little less than trusting everything and everyone but yourself. Here, the veteran Group Repertory Theatre and stage actor, seems so
comfortable that it is as if we are talking to him ourselves off-stage.
Less is more.
When minimum converges with maximum on that very special place known as the stage, character portrayals are embedded karmatically and legends born dramatically.
This critic hopes to see Haverty on the boards of Los Angeles and North Hollywood again soon.
Furthering the message of the festival are the stellar technical direction of Kenny Harder, the disciplined stage management of Jody Bardin and the innovative and powerful sound design of Steve Shaw.
All in all, the FESTIVAL OF NINE WINNING ONE-ACTS succeeds not because each one-act is perfect or somehow brilliant, but because together as a group the one-acts try to be the best that they can with what
they have. That alone is reason not only for celebration, but theatrical rebirth and regeneration.
Not one of the one-acts disappoints or abandons its purpose and duty as a work of art.
They are all staged with presence, class and skill.
For the third time, kudos also go out to co-artistic directors Larry Eisenberg and Chris Winfield for taking a chance on these virtually unknown playwrights.
In giving back to the community, the pair proves once more that transporting the Group Repertory Theatre from the theatrical Dark Ages of community theatre fare to the Modern Ages of of classical and contemporary
theatre has been a lightning bolt from the Gods in terms of quality of work, quantity of theatre goers and talent of playwrights, directors and performers.
In this case, the third production of the season Upstairs is proof that the Main stage is not the only place where theatre flourishes on Burbank Boulevard, just the latest.
The Upstairs has also proven to be an experimental laboratory for the Group Repertory Theatre where work not fitting the Main stage, can be displayed and kindly nurtured.
Thank Eisenberg and Winfield for this arithmetic of hope and faith.
These are equations after our own making.
The playwrights are: Lawson Caldwell, Pamela Weiler Grayson, Aleks Merilo, Dan O’Day, Rich Orloff, Cary Pepper, Margie Similof, Joe Starzyk and Chris Shaw Swanson.
The one-acts are being directed by: Linda Alznauer, Barbara Brownell, Cheryl Crosland, Jack Csenger, Kathleen Delaney, Victor D’wayne Little, Stan Mazin, Bruce Nehlsen and Helen O’Brien.
The cast features performances by: Nick Asaro, Bix Barnaba, Michele Bernath, Barbara Brownell, Cynthia Bryant, Fox Carney, Stephanie Colet, Cheryl Crosland, Bert Emmett, Kait Haire, Doug Haverty, Mishia Marie
Johnson, Saana Laigren, John Ledley, Victor D’wayne Little, Stan Mazin, Lisa McGee Mann, Joseph Marcello, Helen O’Brien, Beccy Quinn, Michael Robb, Judy Rosenfeld, Adam Smith, Sal Valletta, Sascha Vanderslik,
David Vu and Wyatt Wheeler.
By Radomir Vojtech LuzaTheatre, Film and Book CriticAt the Theatre with Radomir Luza
At the Theatre with Radomir LuzaShowtimes:Saturdays at 4 PMSundays at 7 PMTickets: $20.00Students/Seniors with ID: $17Information/Reservations: (818) 763-5990Upstairs at The Group Repertory Theatre is locatedon the second floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre at 10900 Burbank Boulevard,North Hollywood, CA 91601The second floor is not handicapped accessible.The 32 seat black box theatre has AC/Heat.