KPBS AIRDATE: APRIL 27, 2001
A new play festival is always something to crow about. Okay, some fledgling works don’t fly. But you might just witness the shell-breaking birth of something wonderful. So, take a chance; the theater of tomorrow is in the youth of today. This year, there are two exciting theatrical spawning grounds: right now, you can catch the UCSD New Play Festival 2001… and in August, the eighth incarnation of the Fritz Blitz of New Plays. Actually, there’s plenty of cross-breeding between the two. UCSD students and alums have always figured prominently in the Fritz Blitz. Now, five current playwriting students are hatching their latest creations. The new one-acts, staged readings or translations premiere this weekend; the two full-length, full-on productions are continuing from last week.
Both, I’m happy to report, were written by talented young women, who are generally underrepresented in the theater. These two are equally gifted in their ear for dialogue, their future potential and their dramatic voice. Their plays are somewhat less equivalent. Julia Edwards’ urban fairy tale has an intriguing title — “Gorgeous Lies” — but a trite thesis. Laura Henry’s title sounds a bit pretentious — “The Perseverance of Plentitude” — but hers is a much quirkier, more unpredictable piece of work.
In “Gorgeous Lies,” the rats are taking over New York. And the guerrilla artists — poster-painting teen revolutionaries — are fiercely behind them. Ultimately, the rats take power and turn ugly, anarchy morphs into fascism, but love conquers all. There are some fine performances and funny moments, especially as directed by the gifted Jonathan Silverstein, but I couldn’t help feeling I’d seen it all before… okay, except for the rat telling his tale, as it were, into a tape-recorder. The premise is puerile and the language is gratuitously raw, though the dialogue, especially for the young women, is outstanding. But ultimately, the kids are as ratty as the rodents, and I didn’t much care about any of them.
I was totally captivated by “Plentitude” — in spite of the playwright’s endless, defensive notes about whether or not that’s a real word, whether or not it appears in the Oxford English Dictionary. But her play, despite an unsatisfying ending, does make us care – for the failing little local museum and its nerdy curator, no-nonsense bookkeeper and wacko visiting artist. If “Gorgeous Lies” is an ‘urban fairy tale,’ then this is an artistic fable, a cautionary yarn about being true to your art, changing with the times, staying afloat or selling out. Excellently performed and delightfully directed (by Daisy Miller), this play is something to see. And Laura Henry, like Julia Edwards, is someone to watch.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.