The Short Short Play Festival delivers bite-sized plays on stage in Toronto
The Social Capital Theatre serves up a buffet of short plays in an intimate Toronto setting in The Short Short Play Festival — a perfect evening for those who find hour-long plays to be taxing. It’s snack-size theatre, full of variety; a 20-minute play has to make its point quickly, and leave us with one indelible impression.
Plays of this length rarely get a chance at performance and so an appetizer menu of 12 plays over four days is a treat. As Shakespeare might say, though, they be but little, they are fierce.
In Frame (Hilary Wilson), the shortest entry, takes what could be a cliché marital spat and elevates it with a unique premise. As we hear from the recorded art gallery announcement (Elizabeth Rose Morriss), Stephanie (Cara Saunders) and Doug (Anand Rajaram) are actually living photographs, created through an art project where unhappily married couples were asked to photograph each other. The play manages a lot with a minimalist set, frozen smiles, and a small amount of movement as the characters break the frame; it’s a physical comedy of constraint.
The dialogue is snappy, the actors imbuing it with just the right amount of desperation. What happens when they put your picture on the fifth floor, where art goes to die? What happens when the subject of a photograph decides he’s had enough of being in a frame? The world Wilson creates here is inventive, fun, and very sweet. It’s perfect for a short play.
Next up was The Park (Sarena Parmar), a psychosexual drama between a teen and an older man on a park bench that bites off a bit more than it can chew. This time, the condensed nature of the play works against it, as it attempts to cover a lot of very dramatic subjects in a very short amount of time. This results in some jarring shifts in tone and a constant fever pitch.
The actors (Parmar and Michael Longstaff) have an appropriately intense, uneasy chemistry, aside from some physical violence that could be better timed, with more confidence. There’s some nice imagery and intriguing characters here; I think it could really benefit from an expanded version.
Last, Rex McGregor’s Grow Up, Juliet,
A play performed in rhyming couplet
Which riffs on Shakespeare’s tragic scene in tomb
And makes delighted laughter fill the room
Here, death’s not final, full of twists and schemes
With Friar Lawrence not quite what he seems
Taylor Trowbridge’s Jersey accent steals the show
As we find out what’s up with Romeo
The actors ably speak the text with grace
Tahirih Vejdani, Juliet, excels in voice and face
Ben Harris’ guitar stands in for swords
The staging’s striking as he strikes a chord
The language sparkles through this airy notion
Have you a heart, you’ll want to drink this potion.
The Social Capital Theatre has made some nice improvements to the venue, but still does not offer the best sight lines (there is no incline to the seating), so you may want to sit closer to the front or on the aisle. The silences in the plays also struggled for supremacy with the karaoke downstairs. Overall, though, it’s a great opportunity to see new, well-curated work. As Melyssa Ade, the festival’s artistic director says, I hope this becomes the first annual Short Short Play Festival.
- The Short Short Play Festival is playing July 22-25, 2015 at The Social Capital Theatre (154 Danforth Avenue, 2nd floor)
- Shows are grouped into three short plays each night at 8pm and 10pm. See website for specific show times.
- Tickets Prices: Wednesday and Thursday are PWYC, Friday and Saturday $15 or $12 student and senior tickets.
- Tickets available at the door.
- ALL box office/ticket sales go directly to the artists.
Photo of Anand Rajaram, Taylor Trowbridge, Sunnie James, and Tahirih Vejdani by Kelly Manchester