One-act plays need not be throwaways. The format can be memorable and powerful. The five short plays that comprise Encounters (in a non-lucid state) are, regrettably, neither. And that’s a shame because the young Rising Sun Performance Company has been forging a reputation for solid, albeit low-budget work, such as this summer’s The Last Supper. I’m not even sure I would credit any of the works in the present collection as plays so much as I would label them sketches. Stacey Lane’s too-long “Residue” frames the set and then continues with interstitial reprisals, like an irritating MC. Lane’s writing is breathless but dull. Despite the flatness of the material, Anastasia Peterson does a terrific job as Eleanor, a frenetic and confused young woman, reliving archetypal dream states: cheating on one's spouse, failing high school, dying, and public speaking. Eleanor wishes to learn the skill of “lucid dreaming," in which the dreamer can control her dreams' outcomes.
John Patrick Bray’s “Cookies,” an ostensible comedy about mean kids, is a weak skit that goes nowhere. Grownups who talk and act like children are always creepy, and it’s much worse when they have nothing interesting to say. Mark Harvey Levine’s “Shakespeare Lives!” in which he imagines the bard as an undead zombie, is corny, silly and, hopefully, bad on purpose.
In Rebecca Jane Stokes’ “Binge Honeymoon,” a newly married couple (Anthony Mead as Ted and Becky Sterling Rygg as Luanne) returns to their hotel after a 24-hour post-wedding drinking binge. Luanne fears that she’s a suddenly changed person because of her new status. Ms. Stokes’ script has a moment or two but mostly serves up warmed over jokes:
LUANNE: (head in hands). I don’t believe this. Am I going crazy? TED: You’re not crazy. You’re drunk. LUANNE: I’m Irish!
Thomas J. Misuraca’s “Meet Up,” a sketch alluding to the ubiquitous social networking phenomenon, is the most well-written and acted of the bunch. Ms. Rygg plays Cyndee, an intrusive exaggerator whose obnoxious behavior masks insecurities and loneliness. At a tapas bar get together she encounters Jane (Mariana Guillen), a new Meet Up organizer who doesn’t yet know enough to avoid Cyndee like the plague. Revealing their various problems in an overwrought Oprah moment, they form a kind of bond. Ms. Rygg, who can play vapid extremely well, has comedic chops of the absurd variety (when she catches the waiter looking at her, she bellows, hilariously, “Men are raping me with their minds all the time!”) and Ms. Guillen admirably plays Cyndee's slightly repressed foil.
It’s obvious that much if not all of the work here comes from very new writers. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. Yet, the unoriginal and uninspired majority of these five sketches come across like sitcom pilot rejects rather than thoughtful, measured works. I would recommend that the playwrights read more classic short plays and try not to bowl the audience over with cleverness.
Having said that, it’s difficult to believe that these were the best submissions to come across the desk of Akia, Rising Sun’s Artistic Director. Hopefully, Encounters (in a non-lucid state) is an aberration on an upward climb for this promising group.
I sat through this so you don’t have to. In the end, this mishmash might best be summarized as, well, non-lucid.