- OnStage Los Angeles Critic
Last year, The Group Rep held a nationwide contest for one-act plays. Over 150 entries were received, and they chose nine winners to produce as part of a night called Nine Winning One-Acts, currently running at North Hollywood’s Lonny Chapman Theatre. Overall, it was a very impressive evening—the casts and crew worked tirelessly to efficiently change sets between each piece, and nearly all of the plays had something special to offer.
First up was “The Third Person,” written by Dan Borengasser and directed by John William Young. The concept is very unique and fun—a part-homage to, part-parody of film noir, a “narrator” character physically enters a woman’s life at a crucial moment. Performed by Alyson York and John William Young, its most memorable feature was certainly the enjoyable narrative device—a phrase that has perhaps never been used more literally.
The second piece of the night, “February to August,” written by Neil Ellis Orts and directed by Katelyn Ann Clark, tells the sad story of a woman (Pascale Gigon) who is slowly losing her grasp on reality as she battles terminal brain cancer. A visit from her nephew (Devix Szell) helps illuminate some truths about the situation for both of them.
“I Knew It,” written by Scott C. Sickles and directed by Bruce Nehlsen, opens on a woman finding another, younger woman in her husband’s bed—but there’s a twist. Performed by Stephanie Colet and Alana Kerr Collins, this was one of the only plays of the night that seemed to drag a little, and the emotions didn’t land as well as they maybe could have.
One of the standouts of the evening was “Dora’s Dynamic Dates,” written by Marjorie Bicknell and directed by Stan Mazin. Performed by Lareen Faye, Roz Cohn, and Patrick Burke, it takes place at a night of speed dating. What a great concept for a one-act, right? The event doesn’t go quite as planned when only two people show up, but they end up hilariously making the most of it.
“Alexander the Great,” written by James C. Ferguson and directed by Klaudia Kovacs, was probably the weakest link of the nine. A comedic take on the historical figure, it tells the story of three ordinary women (Anny, Cynthia Bryant, and Stephanie Colet) preventing Alexander (Troy Whitaker) from taking over a village. Despite the recognizable central character, the humor didn’t entirely land, and it felt rather anticlimactic.
In “Hospice: A Love Story,” written by Elizabeth Coplan and directed by Jack Csenger, two sisters (Michele Bernath and Lareen Faye) simultaneously confess their regrets and secrets about their mother’s recent death. One is speaking to a priest and one to a therapist, but the two narratives are nicely tied together, and the final revelation that connects their stories does not disappoint. Another standout of the evening, this piece was both poignant and entertaining.
“Only You,” written by Alex Rubin and directed by Loraine Shields, was one of the funniest plays of the night. It opens on a man (Paul Cady) who is dealing with a recent break-up by binge-watching Titanic on repeat while eating old chocolate and drinking. His best friend (Ceirra Burton) is determined to get him out of his apartment to have some fun. The easy, authentic-feeling friendship between the two was fun to watch, and the overly dramatic reaction of someone going through a bad break-up will certainly remind us all of someone we know.
Another favorite one-act of mine was “A Long Time Coming,” written by Jody McColman and directed by Richard Alan Woody. Performed by Pascale Gigon and Lauren Peterson, it tells the story of a woman looking back on a short-lived but very memorable friendship and the impact it had on her life. This was another story that felt very relatable, and the heartbreaking final reveal is sad enough to inspire anyone to give their close friends a big hug.
The final piece of the evening, “Catatonic,” written by Nedra Pezold Roberts and directed by Larry Margo, featured two exes in a custody battle over their cat, told by the point-of-view of their best friend who is stuck mediating the ridiculous situation. Performed by Patrick Burke, Patrick Skelton, and Chris Sloan, it was a cute, light-hearted way to end the evening, and gets bonus points for the clever title.
Nine Winning One-Acts runs through August 7th with performances Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $17-20 and can be purchased at www.thegrouprep.com.