NAPA — I unfortunately can count on one hand the number of original plays I have had the opportunity to see and review locally. As much as I love “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie” and “The Sound of Music,” it is refreshing to experience new theatrical offerings. Sadly, the economic reality for most theater companies is that getting “butts in the seats” often trumps the desire for originality.
That’s why there was no way I was going to miss Lucky Penny Productions’ “8 x10: 10 Minute Play Festival” at the Napa Valley Playhouse. The 3-year old company solicited new scripts from across the country and whittled the 97 entries down to an octet that manages to shed light on the human condition – comic, tragic, tragicomic and everything between—and do it all with remarkable brevity.
Along with our programs, audience members were given a list of the plays and at the end we voted for our favorite. At the conclusion of the show’s run, the playwright whose work is dubbed the People’s Choice will receive a $100 honorarium.
Obviously, the hope of getting their plays produced was the impetus for most who submitted their pieces rather than the cash prize and several of the writers had come on opening night. On Saturday night the writer of “Eternity” Elan Garonzik was present, having flown in from New York to see the performance.
The sparse stage had walls adorned with one quote from each of the eight offerings. Sets, costumes, and props were minimal, but their importance in setting scene and mood (along with lighting and sound design) were magnified because of the time constraints. Still, the highlight of each play was the writing, the actors who gave life to the words and the directors who pulled it all together.
“Color” by Jerry Levitin was directed by local actor Michael Doppe whom I have enjoyed in many shows (most recently “Reefer Madness: The Musical”) as well as the improv group The Rats in the Alley. Doppe’s mother Kim Doppe starred alongside Michelle Willson and Alexandra Leonardo in an offbeat, funny tale about a man who talked in colors.
“Calliope” by Joseph Horst featured Patte Quinn as the muse of a writer played by Erik Donovan. Their wonderful interaction was perfect in the clever and endearing story.
“The Hidden Cellar” by Daniel Weber was remarkable in how deep and intriguing it managed to get in the brief time period. Joelle Hubert, a French woman played by Karin Argoud uncovers a secret about the wine cellar owned by Armond LeClair (Rick Pallaziol).
“When Irish Eyes are Flirting” by Joe Starzyk was directed by award-winning local icon Harry Diavatis and was absolutely hysterical. It was about an older Irish man played by Daryl Roberts teaching a younger wingman, played by Erik Donovan, his secrets to attracting women. Alexandra Leonardo and June Alane Reif also shone as the targets of their affections.
“Coat of Gold” by Susan Jackson featured Garbriel Hernandez helping his “dad” Barry Martin with elder issues. Nicely acted and poignant.
“Eternity” by Elan Garonzik starred Davina Rubin who absolutely killed in this uproarious comedy about a woman making a bargain at the pearly gates. Also wonderful was Vic Chiarella as St. Peter.
“The Terminal” by Ron Burch was a bittersweet glimpse at the inevitable outcome of each human’s life and featured splendid performances by Debbie Baumann and Paul Moser.
“Women of a Certain Age” by Barry Martin featured the author playing a middle-aged man on a date with a middle-aged woman (Cata Pakhurst) and was clever, relevant, witty and reflected truisms not often said aloud.
While I liked some plays more than others, the entire experience was enthralling and entertaining. I applaud Lucky Penny Productions for their vision and bravery as well as for the quality of the productions. The eight slices of reality in the unreal setting of a theater left me sated, yet begging for more.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org