Part 2 of 2016 One-Act Festival Review - It Keeps Getting Better

The Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA continues its 2016 Festival with Program C (for Program A, see earlier review), a group of six one-act plays which once again offers a wide variety of plays to spark the interest of heterogeneous audiences.  The EST/LA Festival gives novice and experienced playwrights the opportunity to try out some fresh and innovative material in a safe and accepting environment. Each one-act play is less than 100 minutes and offers a “seedling” of theater that, perhaps in future, may blossom into a larger production or a full length play.

NUMBER 10 - Sarah Brooke and Tony Pasqualini - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

The most amusing play of the Program C choices was performed just before the intermission. Written and directed by playwright Elizabeth Logun, NUMBER 10 takes place in a piggery, where Harold (Tony Pasqualini) and Millicent (Sarah Brooke) have been living since Millicent’s one-day reign as Prime Minister of Great Britain. Jill John (Sharon Freedman), BBC interviewer extraordinaire, is speaking with the retired P.M. to get Millicent’s opinions about the state of the country since her election and brief tenure. Only poor Jill keeps misquoting Millicent because she’s not up on Pig Latin (or something like that). Plays on words continue non-stop as Millicent explains that she likes Moslems and Jews because they don’t eat her compatriots. Some great acting makes the porkers come alive!

NESSUN DORMA - Jeffrey Han, Tonya Cornelisse, and Patrick John Hurley - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

The sixth and last play in Program C was also a comic winner. Written and directed by Keith Szarabajka, NESSUM DORMA is literally about “talking heads.” It seems that beautiful and treacherous Turandot (yes, the one you may know from Puccini’s opera of the same name) loves her independence and so endows her suiters with a permanent attitude adjustment – execution. In Turandot’s case, this entails the parting of head from body. In fact, Turandot keeps a sea of “poled” heads to remind her that she is the winner in the love lottery. She is an equal opportunity executioner who entertains everyone from princes to warlords and thieves. It just so happens that a warlord who has been there quite a while (and is really falling apart from bad luck) tries to calm the freshest head, a scholar, musician, and prince. Alas, the new entry proves to be difficult to convince.

DAVID HOCKNEY'S COUCH - Michael Mantell and Sharon Rosner - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

Other entries in Program C included DAVID HOCKNEY’S COUCH, written by Stevie Stern and directed by Tom Lazarus. Artist Sibley (Michael Mantell) has run into an “artist’s block” and tries to seduce an artist’s model, Camilla (Sharon Rosner), for a possible cure. He opines that “art is the illumination of the unnecessary” and feels “instead of being hooked on nicotine, we’re all on antidepressants now.” He brings Camilla back to his studio to take a peek at David Hockney’s couch, which he just happened to rescue from the front of Hockney’s studio.

THE FOOLISH ANGEL - Charles Parks, James Macdonald, Tarah Pollock, and Toni Sawyer - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

In another offering written by Garrett M. Brown and directed by Hector Rodriguez, A FOOLISH ANGEL tells the tale of alcoholic Jimmy (James Macdonald), who is told by his dead parents (Charles Parks and Toni Sawyer) that he can see their spirits because he is now “half dead.” Even the ministrations of his frustrated daughter Sophie (Tarah Pollock) don’t seem to help. Acting in this piece was especially strong.

Sharon Freedman, Roderick Menzies, and Will McFadden - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

Written by Tony Foster and directed by Kevin Comartin, TAG demonstrates the destructive behaviors that can result from a trauma in the family. Father (Roderick Menzies) has never mourned his missing (and probably dead) son Mark (Will McFadden). Since his son’s disappearance, he can no longer communicate with his wife (Kathleen Coyne) or his grown daughter Jenny (Sharon Freedman) and has turned to alcohol for solace. 

LIZZIE - Liz Ross - Photo courtesy of EST/LA

LIZZIE, written by Jose Rivera and directed by Lauren Campedelli, returns to the theme of death – this time of a beloved mother and her gradual slipping away in a hospital where “all the machinery in the room weighs more than she does.” The situation may be very different, but the issue of mourning remains for her daughter Lizzie (Liz Ross).


EST/LA ONE-ACT FESTIVAL, PART 2, RUNS THROUGH July 31, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Programs A, B, and C alternate schedules over the run of the festival. Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA is located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets are $25 (Brown Paper Tickets), $30 (at the door), and $50 (complete Festival Programs A, B, and C). For information and reservations, call 818-839-1197 or go online at EastLosAngelesBrownPaperTickets or the Ensemble Studio Theatre of Los Angeles.

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