on April 11, 2013 - 12:01 AM
, updated April 11, 2013 at 3:09 PM
“Buffalo Quickies,” Alleyway Theatre’s long-running festival of short plays, has always been a happily mixed bag.
The program disappeared from the theater’s lineup last year. Fortunately, it was reinstated at the request of some vocal supporters.
The pleasures of any short-play festival include the knowledge that a lackluster piece of theater will soon be over, from the hope that it will be replaced by a much better one, and from the sense that a good play must be intensely savored before the curtain comes down.
Alleyway’s 22nd presentation of bite-sized morsels of theater allows for all those emotions and more.
It started in wonderfully promising fashion, with local playwright Donna Hoke’s clever comedy “Face Time,” in which two minor acquaintances (Joyce Stilson and Bethany Sparacio) meet in a supermarket line only to discover they’re already intimately familiar with one another’s lives. The culprit, perhaps predictably, is Facebook. Hoke’s punchy piece confronts the strange feeling most Facebookers among of us have experienced, of knowing far too much about people we see on the street. It also serves as a smart commentary on technology’s constant intrusion into the social sphere.
Next up was Judy Klass’ “The Poe-Ster,” a sophomoric glimpse into the life of a depressed college dorm-dweller (Sparacio) written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Despite a few funny lines about Adderall and other vagaries of contemporary college life, Klass’ piece proves that even short plays can stretch their conceits far too thinly. It might have worked if it had been half as long.
DonnaMarie Vaughan, another local playwright and filmmaker, presented the moving and carefully constructed piece “Full Circle,” in which Darryl Hart plays a man whose wife was killed by a drunk driver.
Hart’s character visits his wife’s grave and works through his sorrow, anger and finally his appetite for revenge. Though it could also use some paring down, Vaughan’s play weds its straight-ahead concept with simple and straightforward writing.
Camilla Maxwell’s abysmal “Pet Envy,” a nonsensical story about two girls and their pets, was made worse by cloying performances from Stilson and Sparacio.
“Heart and Soul” is George J. Bryjak’s refreshingly bizarre riff on the consumer appetites of middle-class Americans. In it, Stilson plays an unrepentant capitalist who shuns charities and promotes the healing virtues of retail therapy. Roger VanDette, playing a man in crisis over how to solve the problems of the world, is an easy mark for this brand of Ayn Rand-ian happiness and morphs before our eyes into a kind of purring consumerist creature. This one’s a winner.
“Charming,” Mark Harvey Levine’s comedy about an ex-gay on a date gone wrong, is clever in spots but a bit too pat in its resolution to be believed. Levine’s “Misfortune,” in which a couple on a date (played by VanDette and a particularly funny Stilson) at a cursed Chinese restaurant, is much more successful if only because it’s much more absurd.
This “Quickies,” if you’re keeping score, goes four for seven. That’s not a bad record for this Buffalo staple, and ought to make short play fans happy that Alleyway has decided to keep the project on its calendar.