Review: The Short Short Play Festival – Remembrance, What Fresh Hell Is This?, Courting (Social Capital Theatre)

CourtingThe Short Short Play Festival takes place on the second floor of The Social Capital Theatre. When I went, the room was packed with people sipping beer and chatting as much as possible before the lights dimmed. The theatre was prepped for a fun night with a fully-stocked bar dishing out drinks, a popcorn machine, short shorts dangling from the ceiling, and programs with crossword puzzles on the back. I believe six across is “Wedge.” With drinks, snacks, and brain teasers, I was already set for a good time. Three short short plays were the extra bit of something to make my night memorable.

The first short short play was Remembrance, directed by David Tompa. The play stars Jean-Michel Le Gal and Caitlin McConkey-Pirie as Tom and May, a couple on their first date at a coffee shop. It begins as a typical set-up for a sit-com where the woman catches her date in a lie. The waiter, played by Alex Clay, blows Tom’s cover by asking him if he’ll order the usual drinks for him and his date. Apparently, Tom is a man of serious routine, and May is not too impressed.

What could’ve been the introduction of a Charlie Sheen-type production slowly reveals an interesting twist. I won’t give anything away. You should experience the surprise first-hand. The concept is almost fantastical, but in the context of the play it feels totally possible. The chemistry between Jean-Michel Le Gal and Caitlin McConkey-Pirie makes the situation feel real, and the pain feel genuine. The only fault I could find with it is that the time-limit leaves it feeling rushed, only having piqued my curiosity and then leaving the stage. This is the first play written by Laura Ann Schmidt and I think it’s a good sign that it left me wanting more.

The second play was What Fresh Hell Is This? written and directed by Crystal Wood and starring actress Susan Finlayson. Finlayson owns the stage as Dorothy Parker, defending herself after being accused of plagiarizing Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Finlayson is sharp and snarky as the gin-swilling, fast-talking Parker.

The play has a lot of depth for being so short. I thought the jokes were funny, but they rang with truth. She cut the idea of Hollywood, fame, and creative originality to pieces, then picked the pieces back up. She admitted that even though it is all a bunch of nonsense, she loved it. In the end, she showed you can criticize and mock something while dying to be a part of it. The elite life was dramatic, but it was her drama.

The last play was Courting, directed by Carmine Lucarelli, where a couple learns the lawful rules of the dating world. Courting was an absolute power-house of humor. Actors Jillian Hanson, Kevin Vidal, Sean Sullivan, Lynne Griffin, and Jamie Johnson were all hilarious in their own way. Although, Jamie Johnson’s Chef Maurice was a stand-out with his comedic timing and his impressive volume.

The show started off slow with the cringe-worthy and awkward silences of a date lacking in chemistry, then moved on to more ridiculous territory. The two waiters intervened between the couple as their legal/romantic representatives. They fought the important battles alongside their dates: Should he have sent flowers? Should she laugh at his jokes? Is this all too much too soon? I’ve never encountered something like this. It was silly, but I couldn’t help but want to join in on the arguments: Of course you shouldn’t send flowers to a date’s work, you should only smile politely, and it depends on how much you like each other.

Courting brought the house down. My guest was so happy, I think he would’ve paid for a twenty-minute encore.

The Short Short Play Festival was a complete treat to watch. These three shows will be playing on Saturday night, along with Cassandra, Table for Two, and Salty Bachelors. Do yourself a favour and go.


Photo of Lynne Griffin, Kevin Vidal, Jamie Johnson, Jilly Hanson, and Sean Sullivan rehearsing “Courting” by Kelly Manchester.