Friday, February 22, 2013

Reviews from Elsewhere: Deborah Martin on 'Black Box-er Shorts,' One-Act Plays by Bexar Naked Playwrights at Northwest Vista College, San Antonio, February 21 - March 2

Review by Deborah Martin, San Antonio Express-News, of the program of Black Box-er Shorts, via, February 21:

Black Box-er ShortsThe Bexar Naked Playwrights (formerly the SAT Playwrights) are offering theater-goers quite a deal: Five short plays for $10.

It’s good stuff, too. All five plays are fully realized, offering laughs, poignancy and strong production values. The action takes place in five different diners; the set, designed with an eye for detail by the gifted Nathan Thurman, accommodates the very different circumstances for each piece. And it’s fun to watch the stage crew transform it.

The evening begins with Rebecca Burroughs’ “The Guessing Game,” in which a couple (Lindsay Van de Kirk and Evans Jarnefeldt) stops into a diner to confront a young man (Louis Valdez) whom they believe impregnated their teen-aged daughter. The piece, directed by Marisela Barrera, is well-structured and well-acted.

Next up is Van de Kirk’s “American Optic,” the often laugh-out-loud funny tale that spins from things having gone awry at the ill-considered Mountain Cedar Festival, which an old codger named Gordon (Evan Frazier) believes has been ill-planned. He winds up hiding out from his daughter (Hannah Brogdon) in the diner, run by the cedar-fever-afflicted Lyle (Esteban Reyna). Van de Kirk weaves a bit of romance into the tale, directed with wit by David Rinear.

“The Roadside,” written by Alejandro Urdiales and directed by Barrera, is the magical realism-laced tale of a diner that helps lost souls find what they need. It’s run by Tom (Peter Northrop), who helps a drifter named Finn (Anthony Ross) and a troubled single mother (Alexandra Perez) get together. The actors sell the concept well, and the piece ends on a lovely note.

“The Outskirts,” written by Sheila Rinear and directed by her husband David Rinear, opens with an older woman (Laurie Fitzpatrick) arriving early one morning at the diner run by Gabbie (Sonya Schuler). The older woman talks about the difficulties she’s been having with her daughter (Heather Kelley), who seems to be more interested in her inheritance than in caring for her mom; she finds a friendly audience in Gabbie, a caring woman whose own mother recently passed away. The piece is moving, funny, and whets the appetite for more tales of Gabbie and her new friend.

The evening ends with its darkest, funniest and most romantic piece: Mike Greenberg’s “Max and Maggie,” directed by Aaron Aguilar. In it, three people (Jarnefeldt, Ross and Brogdon) in blood-spattered clothes are waiting; eventually they are joined by a fourth (Lisa Valle). To say more would ruin some of the fun of the piece.

“Black Box-er Shorts” plays through March 2 in the Black Box Theatre at the Palmetto Center for the Arts at Northwest Vista College. Call 210-486-4527 for reservations.

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