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FIT 2014: blazes with originality, ingenuity and humanity

Festival of Independent Theatres
Festival of Independent Theatres
Bath House Cultural Center

FIT Festival : 2014

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Festival of Independent Theatres : 2014

WingSpan Theatre Company presents The Diaries of Adam & Eve by Mark Twain. Edited, adapted and directed by Susan Sargeant.

Twain's The Diaries of Adam & Eve is a curious piece, clever and quirky, filling in a lot of details (however conjectural) regarding the “courtship” of the first couple, in hilarious ways. Twain makes few assumptions. The two don't take to each other right away. Eve is quite avid while Adam (Austin Tindle) takes awhile to warm up to the idea of a mate. Twain has spectacular ways of demonstrating the superiority of Eve's (Catherine DuBord) intuitive logic over Adam's linear rationale. (Adam seems to lack the gift for naming animals properly.) Adam tends to overthink issues, but is also the perfect balance for Eve, who tends to take matters too much to heart. We might question Twain's hypothesis that this dynamic is the paradigm for all male/female romances that will follow, but perhaps it's enough to grant that it reflects, at the very least, the experience of some.

Towards the end of Diaries, Twain explores the temptation to gain knowledge and original sin. Or, in another sense, he debunks it. Adam & Eve are depicted as adult children who cannot possibly grasp the repercussions of choosing to ignore the one boundary set for them, and thus, forfeiting the luxury of having decisions made for them. Without going into further detail, the plot takes an extreme turn to the realms of humanity, grief and mortality. And therein lies its brilliance. Eve delivers one of the most enraged and confused speeches one might imagine, expressing her frustration with a God who seems less tender than petty. Tindle and DuBord were nothing short of exquisite, suffusing their performances with warmth and authenticity. Diaries is such a delightful and intensely moving experience, filled with surprises and an unsophisticated sense of awe, at odds with Twain's cantankerous gift for confrontation.

The McClarey Players present Food for Thought by Cliff McClelland : Charles Darwin and the Mating Habits of the Marine Galapagos Iguana, Cake, and The Abyss and The Waffle

Food for Thought is a trilogy of short, goofy pieces that play, more or less, like sketch comedy, teasing us with the ideas and shenanigans of the great historic scientists, philosophers, rulers and artists. Marie Antoinette is saved by a time-traveling grad student in Cake, Friederich Nietzsche and his wife ponder the phenomenon of waffles (and how those indentations hold syrup so well) in The Abyss...and Darwin debates the merits of spousal romance over brute procreation in Charles Darwin....The Darwin piece is the first and strongest. Carmen, an earthy, working class woman with a charming demeanor and thick accent, arrives at a restaurant where Darwin is writing in his diary and seductively asks if he will buy her a brandy. Carmen is an iguana, well-read, intelligent, poised. Other than her bizarre apppetite for raw kelp and propensity for tongue acrobatics, you wouldn't know she's an iguana. But Darwin (and we) take her word for it. She convinces him to have coitus with her, by questioning Man's pretentious need to couple on a higher plne.

McClelland certainly has a grand gift for exploiting the ridiculous : the future of France determined by a cartload of cakes, George Bernard Shaw looking like a cross between Cousin Itt and Oscar Wilde. His appreciation of the ironic also contributes to the mix. We'd suppose that Darwin, if anyone, would understand the baser impulses of the animal kingdom, yet when engaged in debate with a member of that group, cops to the high road. Lurking at the core of McClelland's skits is the desire to disabuse us of the myths so common in pop culture. The ideas don't always result in actual mirth (the balance is a bit off) but it's distracting and amusing enough.

PrismCo presents : Playtime : Directed by Jeff Colangelo. Directed by Isaac Young.

The two most salient aspects of Playtime are the nonverbal narrative (with a spontaneous feel to it) and the set : an oversized, quintessential nursery with toys and lots of balloons. It's not just a nursery, it's the nursery, it's everybody's nursery. Playtime begins in the black dark with Jeff Colangelo as BOY, a curious, kinetic, elated child celebrating the discoveries packed into every new moment unfolding in the world. There's a primal joy that sets Playtime spinning as this giddy boy romps through his blissful refuge, chuckling and squeezing and interacting with these metaphors for carelessness. Then, sinister forces intrude, and gradually everything becomes eerier and more disturbing. The rest is an allegory on the nature of chaotic rapture when challenged by compulsive imposition of order and discipline.

Not that Playtime feels doctrinaire. On the contrary, its strength resides in its extemporaneous, ingenuous, febrile nature. The actors use their voices (sparingly) but they don't use words. The symbolism might have been overdone (in the wrong hands) but here it feels accurate and vivid. Colangelo and fellow players Adam A. Anderson, Natalia Debrov, and Jonah Giuterrez, commence as if they are creating the show from scratch, and there is a preverbal, dreamscapish, associative power they summon that is hypnotic and enticing. As we watch and move past the comfort of the first half, we realize we are participating in our own story, not just the plot unwinding before us. When exactly was the moment, when jaundice and oppression poisoned our lives? Playtime is a triumph of elemental, exuberant, enervating theatre.

One Thirty Productions presents : Our Breakfast written by Ben Schroth. Directed by Gene Raye Price.

Ben Schroth's Our Breakfast revolves on a conversation between two elderly lady friends : Sybil and Jean (Mary Lang and Marty Van Kleeck) and a thematically connected, one-sided conversation between a waitress (Erin Singleton) and her mother. Clearly Jean and Sybil have been friends for awhile. They have fallen into the comfortable speech patterns of longtime companions, sentence fragments, phrase fragments, the odd word or non-sequitur. In some ways, their spinning compass dialogue recalls the existential schtick of Waiting for Godot's Vladimir and Estragon. They are groping for meaning and connection, but differing worldviews and the flaws of language are making this difficult. On one level, it's two friends trying to have a reasonably cogent exchange, on the deeper level, their diveregent methods of dealing with misery is like an invisible wall between them.

Our Breakfast, a comedy set at a Waffle House, pulls us into this friendship ritual shared by Jean and Sybil, a tool which Schroth uses to examine the frustration that permeates their lives. Jean shifts gears so often (she wants coffee, she doesn't want coffee, she doesn't remember asking for coffee) we're not sure if she's hopelessly ambivalent or impulsive. Sybil, by contrast, is steady and focused, but loathe to see beyond her own solipsistic motives. She has a good grip, but she seems thwarted and dissatisfied. The waitress is overwhelmed by adversity and her inability to cope with it resourcefully. One way or another, the three are having trouble being purposeful and present in the moment. Ben Schroth takes the simple scenario of ironically flawed communication between friends, and makes it punchy, loopy, funny and melancholy, without missing a beat.

The Festival of Independent Theatres : 2014. July 11th-August 2nd, 2014. Bath House Cultural Center. 521 East Lawther Drive, Dallas, Texas 75218. White Rock Lake. 1-800-617-6904. www.Festivalof IndependentTheatres.org