Last night, I reviewed three of the twelve plays being presented at The Social Capital Theatre as part of The Short Short Play Festival. It’s a great idea: present four different groupings of three plays twice each over four nights in a casual setting with a bar.
As the adorable, tiny shorts hanging from a clothesline on the ceiling indicate, these are short works of theatre, twenty minutes tops, that don’t often get to see the stage. After my second night, and having seen half of the festival, I’m inclined to agree that good things come in small packages.
The first play, Cassandra, written by and starring Brianna Love, is a retelling of the events of the Trojan War focusing on the twisted love and hate story between the doomed prophet Cassandra and the god Apollo, who both desired and cursed her. The text is layered and intriguing, and it definitely works in your favour to have at least a passing familiarity (or more) with the saga of the conflict between Greece and Troy and the associated myths, as events go by at a furious pace. (Says Melyssa Ade, the festival’s curator, “where else can you get the history of the Trojan War in twenty minutes?”)
Love is a magnetic, intense stage presence. She overpowers her would-be lover Apollo (Tristan McConnell), and occasionally even the theatre space itself (it’s a small venue). McConnell is at his best when Apollo stands implacable, but is no match for Cassandra, even when he seemingly has the power of life and death. This is possibly by design and works thematically, but I’d love to see more blazing intensity from a sun god. The direction, by Jason Fraser, is strong, making effective use of minimal light cues and beautiful fabric. It’s a compelling, fragmented work, asking if Cassandra, who sees everyone’s fate, is capable of changing her own.
Fans of cringe comedy that’s a bit raunchy will adore Table for Two, by Skyler Autumn McCann. Hilary Wilson (who wrote the lovely In Frame, another work in the festival) plays Sarah, a woman embarking on a blind date who has absolutely no filter, as her horrified waitress soon discovers. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on who you ask), her date Robert (Jesse Perrault) proves to be an even match.
The short play format is used to delightful effect here, with the speed at which things progress providing much of the comedy, as the two destroy first the waitress and then each other. They also destroyed the audience, as the laughter was almost non-stop. Wilson is a standout; her rambling is on point, riffing on societal expectations of women and interpersonal relationships with kind of an Amy Schumer vibe. Darby McCann plays the straight-man waitress with an effectively ironic deadpan, and Perrault gives us whiplash as he takes us through a whole range of emotions.
Last on the bill was Salty Bachelors by Dylan Brenton, an utterly charming comedy about two curmudgeonly, aging Newfoundland men who find a piece of news tests their long-term friendship. This play may be salty, but it has a real, sweet surprise at its core, and was my favourite of the evening.
The Newfoundland accent is a little variable, with gravel-voiced Mac (Allan Price) slipping into it more naturally, and Randy Read as Aus being a bit over-careful with a cadence that requires an easier musicality. However, the relationship between the two men is complex and completely believable, and both men imbue their characters with a lived-in look and feel, ably balancing sarcasm and sentimentality.
I had a smile on my face from beginning to end, and if my husband’s reaction is anything to go by, the play could be a boon for the Newfoundland tourism board. If nothing else, you’ll never look at a pickle the same way again.
Writers of short plays are the miniaturists of the theatre world, using similar but distinct skills from those required for the mural that is a full-length play. The Short Short Play Festival is a unique opportunity to witness fun, diverse examples of the form.
- 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 Allan Price, Randy Read and Kerry Ann Doherty by Kelly Manchester