The thing of it about short plays, plays of around ten minutes duration, is that they pack into those precious few moments a wealth of human drama with its sorrow and slapstick, grief and joy. If one loves a particular little playlet, it ends too quickly. If one doesn’t really care for it, well, it is over in just ten minutes. Such fun!
Little Fish Theatre’s fourteenth annual festival of short plays, “Pick of the Vine,” presents ten ten-minute plays that feature an engaging, accomplished cast of nine performers – Annie Vest, Perry Shields, Patrick Rafferty, Amanda Karr, Brendan Gill, Bryon Jones Allman, Kathryn Farren, David Kieran, and Geraldine Fuentes – who take on a wonderful array of finely etched characters under the inspired direction of Cylan Brown, Madeleine Drake, Branda Lock and James Rice.
Broadly played comedy tickled the opening night audience to giggle and guffaw at absurd antics in “The Temp,” by Steve Emily, which centers on the unexpected death of a little-regarded temp worker in an office entirely staffed by self-centered folks save one. “Reston,” by L. Robert Westeen, shows revolting snobs trying to get their child in one of the best of Manhattan pre-schools. In both of these satirical comedies, the actors swing for the fences with the infused energy of the absurd. In “Reston,” Amanda Karr, clearly an audience favorite, dives into her character with manic energy as does her scene partner Perry Shields, while charismatic David Kieran plays the straight man sandwiched between wealthy fiends.
Animal control workers’ existential angst over a road kill fuels the comedy of “What You Don’t Know,” by Mora V. Harris. Geraldine Fuentes, another audience pleaser who scored big laughs as an elderly sex worker in “How Nice of You to Ask,” by Rick Ruben, teams up with quick-witted Kathryn Farren to milk laughs over the carcass of a dead cat…or raccoon? Earlier, in “Small Talk,” by David MacGregor, Ms. Farren was comically wistful as a young woman forced into counseling with a clueless therapist (slick talking Annie Vest) by her fiancé, a rung-climbing lawyer (spot-on Patrick Rafferty). It seems that Farren’s character is incapable of party small talk until she meets up with charismatic Brendan Gill as a stoic deliveryman.
Shakespeare was wise enough to throw in a little comic relief in “Macbeth,” and Little Fish’s Selection Committee saw to it that the evening gets a little dramatic relief. The finely crafted, intensely affecting “Cancelled” by M. Rowan Meyer, features extraordinary performances by protean actors Bryon Jones Allman and Patrick Rafferty as grieving fathers. “Wiggle Room,” by George D. Morgan, is an intense, ten-minute wonder that brings all the male actors to the stage. It deals with the tragic results when a clearly dangerous, perhaps deadly situation, is ignored due to the collusion between corporate pressures and client objectives. It is a sad, emotional play that will touch everyone who has a memory of the past.
The other worthy plays on the bill are “Binged There, Done That” by Ken Preuss, “Encounter at a Hot Dog Stand” by Monica Lewis and “Ten Picnics” by Mark Harvey Levine.
“Pick of the Vine” runs through February 13 at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro.