The topic for the final day of this winter's 14/48 Theater Festival was a little frightening. Drawn out of the giant ice cream cone Friday night was the theme "somewhere over the rainbow." Somehow, though, the seven playwrights made it through the entire day without a trace of munchkins or winged monkeys. What we did get, though, was a solid evening of interesting and entertaining plays.
Two of the seven plays did have explicit Oz plots, including what for Weisenheimer was the best of the evening, Pretty Little Bluebirds by David Schmader, directed by Julie Beckman. Alyson Scadron Branner was a hoot as the dictatorial director, an Oz-obsessed academic who has directed a zillion productions, including the first all-white production of The Wiz, and then an all-black production of her all-white Wiz. In the rehearsal pic at right Scadron Branner (left) directs Hana Lass (who kicks ass), the play's Dorothy. (The 14/48 blog has a lot of other great photos by Auston James; go check 'em out!) Chris Ensweiler is also a riot at Scadron Branner's spouse, cast as the scarecrow. The punch line: all this heavy academic work mining the deep psychological meaning of Oz is being done for a production at a grade school!
Also hilarious was Scotto Moore's Sending a Message, directed by Liam Cole. In the play Connor Toms builds a time machine so he can go back and kill Judy Garland before she turns "Over the Rainbow" into a smash hit. He hates that song! In a Terminator-meets-Oz twist, his wife, Mik Kuhlman, turns out to be a Garland sent from the past to stop his evil plan. Funny stuff!
There was plenty of other psychosis to go around. In The Prisoner of Id by David Tucker and directed by Darian Lindle, a couple work their way through dinner on a blind date while their alter egos provide commentary and advice from upstage. Ray Tagavilla is brilliant, and his punch line is priceless. Split personalities, dreams, or voices in the head also are featured in three of the other shows. Clearly, wicked witches and winged monkeys wigged out lots of people, enabling them to become future playwrights. Somehow, the theme also inspired two of the writers to war/terrorism plots. La'Chris Jordan, who wrote Friday's funny The Ticket, got all serious with Beyond the Rain, about the inner thoughts of a woman imprisoned at Gitmo, talking with her shrink and her other self.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the band. We especially like Alyssa Keene as front-person and usually lead vocalist. Throughout the festival they also provided great scoring and imaginative sound effects. All theaters should have a kick-ass house band.
Alas, 14/48 is done until summer. We'll be counting the days.