One-act plays have returned to the Alleyway Theatre. Maybe it really is spring.
Alleyway’s ode to the 10-minute stage snippet is “Buffalo Quickies 2014,” the 23rd installment having just opened, assembled and directed by the company’s astute, talented and pleasantly indefatigable wearer of many hats, Joyce Stilson.
“I adore reading new scripts,” Stilson told an interviewer recently. This is a good thing because the Alleyway receives more than 600 scripts a year from across the United States and abroad. Over the years, Alleyway has been one of the few national acting troupes totally dedicated to the development and production of new plays and musicals. (The annual “A Christmas Carol” is the exception.) And the chance to have a sought-after imprimatur on a first work – the “Maxim Mazumdar New Play Award,” named in memory of an early-years Alleyway mentor – assures that the competition will stay keen.
This year’s lineup has seven short plays, two area debuts and five world premieres by playwrights Matt Boyle, George J. Bryjak, WNY’s Donna Hoke and Mark C. Lloyd, Mark Harvey Levine and David Muschell, a Muzumdar winner in 2012 for the last play on this year’s “Quickie” list, “Scamming.”
Director Stilson speaks fondly about short plays and after directing more than 150 of them she usually knows what works. That doesn’t always happen, but she strives for promising, performance-ready pieces.
Bryjak’s “Therapy” opens the night. It’s a wild, tight, bright and kinky spin on marriage counseling with a final surprise. It’s decent work. A Stilson favorite, the absurdist “I’m Not Sure,” by Lockport writer/poet Mark C. Lloyd, follows. It’s a busy existential sparring match between Woman and Man, offbeat foolishness that approaches tedium.
Lloyd’s “Roses are Red…?” features two warring, married poets trading personal insults at a staged reading until warm remembrances signal a rekindling of sunnier times, a vague thread that runs through this Alleyway evening. “Workin’ on the Railroad,” by the California-based Levine, is a silly and whimsical tale of the early 19th century American West, where everyday communication proved to be the stuff of folk music. “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad, all the live-long day,” says a tired Clem. “Where’s Dinah?” “Well, someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah,” says Sam, “strummin’ on the ole banjo.” Clem: “Is that what they call it now?” Add some other old favorite ditties and “Workin’ ” provides some steady giggles.
Donna Hoke’s “Fruit Loops” is a tidy tale about who really is building those prize-winning kindergarten projects – Is it 5-year-old Susie or Susie’s well-meaning mommy and daddy? An elitist teacher and a savvy young mother duke it out. “Brotherhood of the Whirlpool Box” adds some social conscience into the “Quickie” mix, playwright Boyle providing some thought-provoking dialogue between a homeless man and an idealistic undergraduate learning about life on the streets for a class report. Comfort zone alert.
The closer, “Scamming,” with an improbable premise – a phony car accident, bogus witnesses, even a fake EMT, a comic air – starts poorly and limps home. Some moments of promise but, in the end, unfulfilling and unsustainable.
“Buffalo Quickies 2014,” with more hits than misses, features a fine ensemble: Tyler Brown, Jacquie Cherry, the stellar Patty Hannel, Darryl Hart, and the practiced Michael Starzynski. Multiple roles in a variety of situations; challenges are met by a well-chosen cast.
What: “Buffalo Quickies 2014”
Where: Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley
When: Through April 19
For info: 852-2600, www.alleywaytheater.com