Nov. 15, 2001
Smartly acted and sharply produced even when the writing is sub-par, Theatre of NOTE's late-night offering It's Later Than You Think is exactly the kind of diverting sampler fare you'd think would be a staple of the Edge of the World Theater Festival--10 five-minute plays putting a few dozen performers through their comic, dramatic, or absurdist paces between the blackouts--though the rough consensus of my critical colleagues seems to be that this year's EdgeFest fare is pretty slim pickings compared to previous years.
Take note, theatre makers, how it's done: NOTE put out a request to hundreds of playwrights for five-minute plays on the title theme ("It's later than you think"), and whittled down the choices to this clutch of distinctive and extremely diverse playlets, from deft sketch comedy (Jon Colton Barry's Regret and Slightly Later Man, Kiff Scholl's 'Ere) to achingly straightforward drama (Mary F. Casey's Eight Seconds and Upon Diagnosis), from gnomic experimentation (Phil Ward's Wob, Rebecca Gray's It's Later Than You Think) to haunting character study (Christopher DeWan's What Time Is It?) and mind-game conceits (Jeremy Patterson's Disappear Tomorrow, Steve Morgan Haskell's Our Friend Sam).
That the sum of the parts doesn't really add up, or that it represents a softer, less biting collection of material than we've seen at NOTE in the past, is just fine, as there are enough savory bits to tide us over: the left turn that satisfyingly derails the cheap, almost wordless pothead humor of 'Ere, gamely slouched through by Bill Robens and Justin Brinsfield; Donald Agnelli's definitive way with the earnest, hard-bit cowboy poetry of Eight Seconds; the always strong Hugo Armstrong, with his Yosemite Sam 'stache, enlivening the self-conscious deathbed delirium of Wob, under the prankish direction of Albert Dayan; Lynn O'Dell's burnished, brittle brilliance as a terminal patient in the potentially maudlin Upon Diagnosis, tautly directed by Ann-Giselle Spiegler; the strangely affecting arc of a disaffected, mismatched couple (Michelle Welk and Scott McKinley) in What Time Is It?, directed with admirable stillness by Miguel Montalvo; the flawlessly flustered delivery of Greg Wall as a dying patriarch vainly advising his sons, in the hilarious Regret, which proves that a one-joke play is fine if it's a good joke; the wild, affrontive opening, and the chilling ending, of Our Friend Sam, musingly directed by Barbara Kallir, in which a klatch of enlightened yups execute a friend for unspecified social crimes, and the go-for-broke sci-fi-serial camp of Slightly Later Man, with some delectable (uncredited) set pieces and, apparently, live theremin accompaniment (the versatile Armstrong again).
As an intro to NOTE's playful, eclectic, alternately earnest and jokey house style, you could do a lot worse, and for a late-night stage dessert, you won't do much better this EdgeFest.