The Extremely Short New Play festival defies its comically long title with singularly brief stagings; 10 plays each under 10 minutes in length.
Though some works are stronger than others the overall quality of plays, direction and acting guarantees an evening of diverse entertainment. The playwrights do themselves proud with an impressive array of compositions; stand-outs include Jessica Anderson’s “Terminal Journey“, Pierre Brault’s “Coach of the Year” and a gut-wrenchingly personal account of loss accompanied by innovative staging and technology in Tim Ginley’s “There’s More to the Picture“.
The smorgasbord of theatre – with only 2 or 3 pieces not fully to my taste – left us exhilarated by the ability of the 4 cast member to create such varied and memorable characters. Brian Stewart appears in a staggering 7 performances – managing, with seemingly chameleon-like ease, to keep his characters fresh. Stewart’s sensitive human portrayal of Caleb in Terminal Journey came right on the back of the challenging two-hander Seeing which demanded a broad range of conflicting emotions as an unhinged haunted Intelligence expert grapples with dark thoughts. Maureen Smith and Colleen Sutton transitioned smoothly into and away from the historical characters in Loyal Opposition. Smith toe-tapping impatience was irritatingly authentic followed by her tense unmoving delivery of measured restraint while Sutton’s strengths shone in dramatic roles.
Eric Craig taking to the Ottawa stage for the first time is one to watch; bringing undeniable presence and subtle nuances to his roles we consistently lost the actor finding only the character on stage. As a duty-bound ticket attendant, a grunting primate, a mullet-headed moron or haunted long-haul trucker Craig is in equal measure empathetic, eerie, funny and riveting.
The balance of comedy to drama demanded some difficult shifts; in particular with the slapstick Denial sandwiched between the night’s two most emotionally-charged works. The comedic pieces at the end of each set however keep the tempo flowing and unite the room with laughter.
Finally, it’s hat’s off to director John Koensgen who sets a fine pace throughout the evening and creates the virtual “space” allowing each time-compressed work to truly shine, for 10 minutes, at the Arts Court theatre.
31 October – 10 November (Tues-Sat 8pm)
Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Ave.