Open Fist is excellent in producing a show of what they call pop-ups, that is, really short plays that are serious, comic, and deeply thought provoking. The sketches express the currents of social and political reality. Last year, the company produced Welcome to Your Alternative Reality, which dealt with the angst of the incomprehensible advent of Trumptopia. This year the show is One Year Later: Another Political Pop-Up of the Theatrical Kind. The target is broader, going beyond the political and into the social climate—the DACA debacle, the Me Too revolution, social media conundrums, and, inevitably, a swipe or two at the groper-in-chief.
Artistic director Martha Demson put out a call nationwide for short plays and received a plethora of potential choices. I believe she said the total was something like a hundred and thirty submissions, all of which, of course, had to be read, evaluated, and whittled down to a reasonable number. From this abundance, fourteen were selected and included some that are homegrown from within the multitalented company. I cannot do better than to crib a bit from Lucy Pollak’s press release. The short plays are:
Darlene’s Resistance Monologue by Jonathan Joy, directed by Martha Demson — A straightforward young woman (Elizabeth Lande) from a small town in West Virginia discovers what it means to “Resist” and “Stay Woke.”
Razing the Statue by Marilynn Barner Anselmi, directed by Amanda Weier — A confused Confederate statue (Bruce Dickinson) finds himself in a scrap yard and about to be cut up for scrap by a determined young woman (Brooke Clendenen).
Sunset in Chappaqua by Myra Slotnick, directed by Chris Cappiello — When Lainy (Katie May Porter) convinces her partner Constance (Lane Allison) to spend Thanksgiving hiking in the woods around Chappaqua, rare birds are not the only things she is hoping to encounter.
Elevator Repair by Steve Apostolina, directed by Judith Scarpone — A man (George Caleodis) and his brother-in-law (Dylan Maddalena) try to hash out their differences during an elevator repair. Buttons are pushed.
Dreaming by Diana Burbano, directed by Laura James — an intimate and poignant look at the lives of a mother (Jill Remez), living in Mexico but hoping to return to the U.S., and her daughter (Kenia Romero), a DACA recipient living in the U.S. who is facing deportation.
Empire Dreams, written by Caroline Klidonas and performed by the playwright and Dylan Maddalena, directed by Barbara Schofield, with choreography by Tony Testa — A rousing anthem that bluntly calls out our current socio-political climate, urging audiences to continue waking up from the seductive delusion of the “American Dream” in order to continue building and fighting for a world that is inclusive of all.
The Trouble with Cashews by David MacGregor, directed by Amanda Weier — A 4th of July gathering presents siblings (Scott Roberts and Amy Moorman) with a unique opportunity to save the world.
The Contributor written and directed by Ron West — Politics divides a family. Art unites it. Sort of. With Amanda Weier, Rebecca Rosenak Phelps, and Mandy Schneider.
Boxes by Jen Huszcza, directed by Jan Munroe — Anthropomorphized boxes tell a timeless tale about bullying. Performed without words.
I Saw What You Said by Steven Korbar, directed by Martha Demson — Two women who’ve had a fight on social media run into each other at their local grocery store.
Fake by Jen Huszcza, directed by Barbara Schofield — Somewhere in the not too distant future, in a world where the Real has been, somehow, lost—or thrown away—a lonely woman (Dionna Veremis) searches for the courage to go out and find it. With Beth Robbins.
Here to Serve You by Barbara Lindsay, directed by George Caleodis — Airport security runs amok when two weary travelers find a lone shoe on the terminal floor. With Dustin Myklebust, Steve Stinson, and Riley Chandler alternating with John Bozeman.
Changing Hats by Abigail C.K. Lill, directed by Amanda Weier — Barney (Richard Knolla) has just graduated from the college where he’s worked as a janitor for decades; who will change the toilet paper during the post-graduation reception? With Beth Robbins.
1 in 5 by Lane Allison and Company, directed by Lane Allison — No matter their age, ethnicity, size, or occupation, women play Russian Roulette with their lives everyday. With Lane Allison, Mandy Schneider, Katie May Porter, Beth Robbins, Sandra Kate Burck, Amanda Weier, Dionna Veremis, Caroline Klidonas, Rebecca Rosenak Phelps, Kenia Romero, and Brooke Clendenen,
All the actors and directors come from within the company, and the design staff has a long association with Open Fist Theatre. They are James Spencer: Scenic Design; Tim Labor: Sound Design; Ellen Monocroussos: Lighting Design. And Amy Rowel manages the stage.
For this production, Martha Demson and company have turned the house’s conventional stadium seating into the coziest of living rooms with vintage chairs and couches on oriental carpets, tables that are convenient for resting glasses or bottles of imbibibles, and are already preset with programs. Such luxury! How swell!
One Year Later: Another Political Pop-Up of the Theatrical Kind presented by Open Fist Theatre Company runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through March 10 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.