October 24, 2003
Youth may be overrated in the arts, where received tradition and institutional memory are too often shortchanged in the quest for the Next Big (twentysomething) Thing. But at best we look to young artists for a fresh take, a new twist on old forms, an original voice.
The Blank Theatre Company's Young Playwrights Festival, which sifts through hundreds of nationwide submissions from under-20-year-old scribes, has a good track record of finding and showcasing such original voices with impeccable professional productions, from Joseph Alan Drymala's uncannily mature musical "Sky's End" (1996) to Victor Kaufold's anguished teen-violence meditation "The Why" (2000).
The cream of this year's crop isn't in that class. Slight to a fault, the two one-acts under the title "funny ..." demonstrate forgivable but less appealing traits of youth: confused ambition and slavish imitation.
In Jason Connors' "Someone's Living in the House That Jack Built," a lonely guy who talks to mannequins (Gregory Jbara) befriends a diffident alternative-Bible salesman (Tom Lenk). Richard Kline's subdued direction gives full weight to some of Connors' bathetic monologues at the expense of zany momentum.
Ginger Healy's "Mousy Brown" traces a predictable teen rite of passage with admirable if unremarkable wit and economy, and it's made effortlessly engaging thanks to a playfully sincere lead performance by adorable, raspy-voiced tomboy Constance Zimmer. Also helping it pass pleasantly is the spirited direction of Austin Winsberg -- himself an alumnus of the Blank's Young Playwrights Fest, now a successful sitcom writer. On the evidence of these two new plays, he needn't fear the competition.
"funny ...," Blank Theatre Company at the 2nd Stage, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Nov. 2. $25. (323) 661-9827. 1 hour, 35 minutes.