Friday, January 11, 2013

14/48 First Weekend, January 2013

It's almost time for the second weekend of January 2013 14/48, the world's quickest theater festival. So, we'd better write about the first weekend. 

Friday the 4th had a couple of highlights for us. The theme was "Back to Square One," and the opening play written by Maggie Lee and directed by Paul Budraitis, The White Queen, was a thrilling chess game. The always awesome Ben McFadden and David Brown-King battled as a knight and bishop on a giant chess board in a way that made me laugh with delight, even with my limited knowlege of chess. Carolyn Marie Monroe was a conniving queen and Lantz Wagner a vicious king in a game to the death. 

Expecting by Brendan Healy and dircted by Manuel Cawaling was a fun twist on the expectations we have about prospective parents, birth and adoptive. The bio parents, played trashy and sweet by Jason Harber and Libby Barnard, had their own way of testing the prospective adoptive couple's parenting skills—catching babies falling from the sky. Or dolls falling from the grid. Which is funny. Ok, you had to be there.

The Hulk (Trick Danneker) gets ready to make his move on
the dying 70-year-old virgin (Megan Ahiers) in Touch For
the Very First Time. 14/48 photo by Joe Iano.
Our favorite of the night was Touch for the Very First Time. Honestly, it's not just because I love everything I've ever seen that Matt Smith has written or Megan Ahiers has acted in. It was also directed by Jose Amador and the other actors were Chris Ensweiler, Trick Danneker, and Rebecca Shepherd. What a line up. This was an absolute delight. Ahier's aging character, stricken by cancer, announces to her friend that having sex is on her bucket list. And she wants it to be the first time for the guy too. So her friend figures, where can she find inexperienced men who can be persuaded to have sex with a dying 70-year-old virgin? Comic-Con! Of the two pals, it turns out "Spider Man" has tangled before; and Ensweiler's hilarious depiction of spidey sex is a sequence I can't quite forget. But "the Incredible Hulk" is taken with the woman he's been told by the quick-thinking friend is the first Bond girl—that's right, Ursula Andress—and the play ends on a touching note.

The theme for Saturday was "Over the Edge." We thought this was a strong night. The opener, In His Eyes, by Tina LaPlant and directed by Timothy Hyland, leaned a little too close to the theological for me, but the whiff of moralizing was cut with plenty of humor expressed by a farting nun, and Amanda Lee Williams, Libby Bernard, Carolyn Marie Monroe turned in redeeming performances. 

Jason Harber, left, and his ninja armadillo friend Chris
Ensweiler in 21 Run. 14/48 photo by Joe Iano.
21 Run was one we won't soon forget; by Matt Smith—who wrote two absolute gems this weekend—and directed by Paul Budraitis. The 14/48 gods were smiling when they hurled this weekend's Mazen award winner Jason Harber into the cast. He played a socially awkward guy alone on his 21st birthday to perfection. Chris Ensweiler, a superb actor we've often admired for his clown talents, got to clown it up as an imaginary friend/alter ego who's also an armadillo. And David Brown-King was terrific as the forgetful real-life friend. It would have been memorable—and scary—enough as a funny, goofy play about the inner life of guys. But Harber's character had just downed 21 shots in his solo birthday celebration, and the ninja armadillo was clowning around right next to our seats, and then the spotlight lit us up and I knew we were in trouble as Harber staggered straight for us and unloaded those shots. I felt a big gob smack against the side of my head. I think the Weisenheimer got the brunt of it. Turns out pink silly string is a rather good simulation for vomit! Everyone who came out to clean up at intermission was very concerned about us, kept asking if we were ok; we thought it was hilarious. 

Slice of Life by Eric Lane Barnes and directed by Manuel Cawaling was a terrific closer. They had a dream cast with the comedic chops to make this play sizzle. Ben McFadden, who owns every stage I've ever seen him on, killed as the knife-wielding, chain smoking, exasperated chef. Sarah Winsor as the  waitress was perfectly intimidated and infuriated by Megan Ahier's character, a bitch-on-wheels nightmare customer. Mark Boeker as her husband practically quivered with strained nerves trying to please his wife on her birthday and longing for some kindness. And Justin Huertas got the punch line as the busser who gives the horrible woman her comeuppance in the form of a gluten-free almond cake delivered directly to her pie hole, since the silverware was missing. And old gag but a satisfying one. 

And these are just the highlights; so many more brave performances, costumes, props, jokes, both nights. And as always, a big shout out to the fantastic 14/48 band who add so much to these plays. 

1 comment:

Weisenheimer said...

I'm continually amazed at how much fun stuff comes out of 14/48; last weekend's second day was particularly entertaining. As Sweetie noted, Matt Smith went two-for-two. So did Chris Ensweiler, who got to play Spiderman AND a ninja armadillo! Megan Ahiers had a perfect weekend; there may not be a funnier actress around, unless it's Amanda Lee Williams. By the way, who would have guessed that a play about three nuns, one of them hilariously flatulent, would have been written by a woman? True story!

Lastly, we note that Mazen Award winner Jason Harber would have had a perfect weekend, too, save for that Vikings thing. Go Pack!