The Production Company is taking a break from its usual full length fare (following their much lauded Mrs. Warren’s Profession and preceding the much anticipated M Butterfly) to give 8 local playwrights the opportunity to show off their comic wares in The Summer Sizzle One-Act Play Festival (and competition).

By far the best of the hour-long Series A (reviewed here) is Jim Newman’s clever and original Clear As Day, the story of a high school boy who is (literally) invisible to girls and a high school girl (equally) invisible to boys who discover to their great (initial) joy that they are (drum roll!) visible to each other.  Griffin is so invisible to the opposite sex that when a pretty girl comes over to chat with his best bud Bill, she plops right down on Griffin, not realizing that he’s sitting on the bench next to his friend.  “I told you she didn’t know I exist,” exclaims Griffin almost proudly.  Newman milks laughs galore from Griffin’s invisibility.  When Bill attempts to introduce Griffin to a female classmate, she thinks she’s being introduced to his, well, his thingy.  “I can’t believe you named it!” she exclaims in disgust.  Newman’s play is short, sweet, and unlike the Saturday Night Live skits it resembles, actually has a clever ending, and not just a “we’ve run out of ideas” fade-out. The cast (Michael Vincent Carrera, Allie Costa, J.C. Henning, Courtney Long, Caitlin Mulvey, Matthew Scott Montgomery, and Ben Ryan) are each and every one fine and dandy in their roles. T L Kolman directs with comic flair.

The other plays are considerably less successful, though each does have its moments.

Feed The Children, by Don Cummings, directed by David Narloch, gets some laughs from its silliness. A pair of “entertainers” battle for a chance to appear on “regional television” as part of a telethon to raise money for the “skinny kids in NoHo.” The telethon host gives the battling Cillium and Gerkin (yes, those are their names) five minutes to decide who will take the place of the contortionist from Tarzana who had to cancel.  If they can’t come to a decision, their spot will go to Libby The One-Flipper Seal.  Henning and Emma Hawley are funny as the bizarrely named would-be dancers, and Hawley’s “dance moves” must be seen to be believed..    Carrera and Narloch also appear, the latter in a rather embarrassing flesh toned body stocking.

Scrub My Tub, by Claudia Melatini, directed by Kolman, benefits from the wonderful Joanna Strapp (Vivie in Mrs. Warren’s Profession), in platinum blonde bob, as an employee from a rather unique cleaning service, hired by Gary (Tony Sago) to scrub his tub (and polish his furniture) in her underwear.  “I like it when you make big, illustrious sweeping motions with the dust brush,” he tells her. Overall, though, it was a bit too bizarre for me.

Most puzzling of the bunch is Mary Steelsmith’s True Blue, directed by Kolman. The longest of the one-acts, True Blue is an anti-war satire (I think) about two soldiers (Sean Faye and Sean Edwards, dressed identically except for the color of their shirts) who do the unthinkable.  They cross the line (literally, a red duct tape line dividing the stage in half) to see what it feels like on the other side. The ingratiating Faye has the delivery and timing that would make him a good choice for many a Neil Simon comedy, but the play itself went over my head.

Series B (at alternate performances) is made up of Colin Mitchell’s Musing, Richard Martin Hersch’s After The Mail Came, Michael Van Duzer’s Incitation To The Dance (all directed by August Viverito) and Narloch’s A “Good Man” Is Hard To Find, directed by Siobhan Dunn.

Audience members vote by secret ballot on each of the plays, and a cash award will be presented to the playwright whose playlet gets the highest score.  In Series A, my money is on Newman’s Clear As Day.

Because Series A runs only 60 minutes, perhaps future Summer Sizzles could pare down the number of plays to make a single (and longer) production of only the best of the 8. That could really make the summer sizzle!

The Chandler Studio Theatre Center, 12443 Chandler Boulevard, North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
September 5, 2008

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