Sunday, July 29, 2012

KC Fringe "4Play!" review by kellyluck

Interesting combination of plays
Rating: 4

KC Fringe Festival

Part of the Fringe was a showcase of sorts at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. Four plays, written and performed by local talent. Each one presents a brief but unique tale. Taken together they are funny, sweet, and surprising.

The first was "A Matter of Faith," in which handyman Jesus -- pronounced "Hay zoos" -- (Philip Hooser) drops a statue of Mary on his thumb, getting a bruise on his nail which, to the church at least, appears to look like Mary. Suddenly he finds himself in a whirlwind of hoopla and fanaticism. When a reporter comes to interview him, she raises uncomfortable questions about faith, the nature of things, and just what he's doing with that hand, anyway? Jose Faus' script is a punchy, wickedly funny one which takes a good hard look at the world of "miracles" and the efforts by vested parties to perpetuate them.

Next was Ken Buch's "A Perfect 89," in which number-obsessed Sam (Sean Hogge or Ken Buch) and his girlfriend Justine (Bree Henderson) spend the night in together. She wants to make up for falling asleep on him last week, but discovers to her horror that she was in fact drugged so that he could... well, measure her. The proportions of her body, the ratio and angles of her various parts, number of pubic hairs, and on and on and on. I'm not sure what disturbed me more, here: the man's insistence that this was necessary to prove she was mathematically perfect, or the fact that the whole sequence was played for laughs. Still, it didn't seem to lose the audience, so perhaps it is just me.

Third was my personal favorite, "As the Guiding Light Turns." Church momma Grace (Sherri Roulette-Mosley) comes home in a fury, having been told she's been taking off running the church talent show because she likes to watch soap operas. Son Jerome (Even Lovelace) does his best to console her, and when the Reverend himself (Jay Smith) shows up, the sparks fly. Now, I must admit that, as a former preacher's kid myself, I'm all too familiar with the dynamics of church politics. Michelle T Johnson's script is right on the money with this, and she writes very well for the characters--the line about Grace preferring to watch soaps "Where I know they're real people playin' fake, than go to church and see all those fake people pretendin' to be real" absolutely made my night. As Grace's husband (Jahi Boseda) says at the end, with all the things that have happened, who needs soaps?

Finally, there is "Breeding Stock," a satire of sorts in which a business show hosted by Randy Smirk (Allan Hazlett) presents Wanda Green (Mary Ruth Gunter), who runs a clinic selling "certified" sperm from so-called perfect specimens, beginning with their first "exclusive", Bruno Johnson (Jeff Smith). The show is interrupted by a group of terrorists (Rozanne Devine, Bree Henderson and Chelsea Almeida) demanding Green put a stop to her company. There is a tendency in Fringe productions from time to time to get  a bit "preachy," for less skillfully crafted productions to beat you over the head with whatever point they are trying to make. Sadly, this is another of these, with the "terrorists" seemingly being played straight as they deliver the Moral of The Story yet so ridiculously pompous that one honestly cannot tell if they are meant to be satirical figures or not. I see this is by Jack Phillips, whose "Cultural Confrontation," sadly, is similarly afflicted.

So. Overall a mixed bag, but there are enough gems to keep a body going. The Kansas City Playwrights League has put together an interesting combination of stories, showing the diversity of talent and ideas here in the city today. And while the talent is uneven, there is enough here to give lovers of good stories hope for the future of drama in Kansas City. These playwrights are worth watching as their talents foster and bloom.

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