Sunday, January 13, 2013

24 little hours

A film crew has been at 14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival the last couple of weekends shooting a documentary about the event, and last night as I was waiting in line at ACT Theatre they pulled me aside for a quick interview from the audience perspective. My comments were that 14/48 is better than Christmas, and that we reserve dates for it on our calendars as soon as we know them. I also allowed that, despite the fact that the odds are horribly stacked against the artists, somehow they usually prevail and the pressure cooker that is 14/48 delivers gems. Except, I added, for Friday night.

As luck would have it, we had friends and business colleagues in town from San Francisco Friday and dragged them out to our favorite theater event, and the result was something of a dud. We weren't very fond of any of the plays. The best of the lot was Pianos, Bikes, Swimming, and God, written by Wayne Rawley and directed by Pattie Miles Van Beuzekom. The sketch featured a lesbian couple, played by Amy Christer and Tonya Andrews, who were freaking out about the impending arrival of their first child. Beyond that, Darragh Kennan's caveman playing off the crowd during Gift From Moon was a rare highlight.

Our group speculated that the evening's theme, "God Will Provide", caused the artists to get altogether too ontological about things. At any rate, nobody seemed to think God provided us with very good plays on Friday. Despite this, everyone seemed to enjoy the outing, and the company. We hoped that plays Saturday, based on the theme "Something to Write Home About", would indeed be noteworthy.

Amazingly, the same group of artists that whiffed on Friday delivered seven pretty solid shows on Saturday. My favorite again was penned by Rawley, his Camp Lake SunnyLake, directed by Andrew Huntley, being a hilarious spoof of slasher flicks, in which all of the drug- or sex-crazed camp counselors get whacked. I know, sounds like a million laughs. It was! I also really loved I Dare You, written by Marcy Rodenborn and directed by Beth Raas-Bergquist, in which a sketchy character played by the delightful Seanjohn Walsh is running something of a hostel for traveling youth. They get high, they get jiggy on public transit, and in the end get past some issues in their pasts. In Betsy Barker, Episode #37 Teru McDonald plays the title character, an undercover animal control agent who busts up a hilariously evil puppy mill, leaving carnage in her wake. I know, sounds like a million laughs. It was! Mark Fullerton directed the script by Scot Augustson. Paul Mullin's The Patriarch was the story of a bitter father, his priest and soldier sons, and long-suffering wife, directed by Pamala Mijatov and performed admirably by Ben Burris, Danial Chercover, Stephanie Kim, and Sean Ryan. Not a bit funny, but the one serious gut-socker of the evening.

Strangely enough, the same thing happened last January, when we panned the Friday night shows of 14/48 only to love the same group of artists' offerings on Saturday. We wonder a lot about whether the day or time slot matters to the quality of the performances. I don't know that we have enough evidence to say. I suggested last year that it was a Friday the 13th thing. This year... New Moon?

Big props to Rawley, who nabbed the weekend's Mazen Award for his contribution to the spirit of risk taking and camaraderie embodied in the process (in addition to writing two nice scripts.) We really loved his Live! From the Last Night of My Life at Theater Schmeater last year, and look forward to the Schmee's production of his Attack of the Killer Murder... of Death later this year. We also have to add another rave for Megan Ahiers; as we waited in line folks were still talking about her two great performances from last weekend.

Mark your calendars for March 9, when 14/48 presents theater anonymous, in which none of the cast know any of the others until the night of the performance; for Kamikaze Weekend June 21 and 22, in which none of the participants know if they'll write, direct, act, design, or be a member of the band until  a random drawing; and for a seven-night 14/48 marathon Sept. 6-14, with seven plays every night (which we reckon makes it 63/168, which isn't as catchy a title for a theater festival.)

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