Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

Review Round Up – Broadway Bound Theatre Festival

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Festivals can be a useful tool in a writer’s journey of cultivating their work. When a piece has gone beyond what the writer can accomplish on their own, mounting a production and inviting an audience is often a necessary step in determining what’s functioning well and what isn’t. Broadway Bound Theatre Festival prides itself on its hands-on approach, helping playwrights hone their vision and bring their play closer to the best version of itself.

In the spirit of “YES, AND…”, profiled below are review highlights to the thirteen adult full productions of the 2018 Broadway Bound Theatre Festival – focused on the writing.

 

Adele’s Way

by Dennis Porter

A distinguished feminist academic has taken her own life and her family gathers to reflect on the sadness and sweetness of human life on earth.

A functional four person “living room” drama that offers a protagonist with a non-traditional view of suicide. It’s refreshing to see a play about suicide where the main character supports the decision. The play is at its best when the conflicts the characters are experiencing are born somehow from the suicide: the family’s struggle to decide what to do with the family dog, the daughter-in-law believing her miscarriage is a result of the lingering malignant energy, and the police investigation of the husband.

Additional points for:

  1. Lead role for a mature actor
  2. Family drama where the characters actually like each other
  3. A terrific name for a dog (Fungus)

 

Bergen

by Steven Fechter

Norwegian rock musicians Tor, Hans, Erik, and Inger vow to find a name for their band that reflects America’s collapse, or they’ll disband. While they argue over politics and art, they drink, erotically fantasize, and break into song. An unforeseen event sends the band into a tailspin with accusations of betrayal, drunken confessions, and a shocking act of violence.

A delightful slice-of-life ensemble dramedy that happens almost in real time. What’s great about Bergen is how the vitality of the characters spills off the stage into the audience. While characters swap stories and jokes and brainstorm band ideas, the audience is occasionally transported momentarily into a “fantasy”, allowing a very theatrical sneak peek into one of them. Each character gets a chance at holding center, and each does so admirably. Fechter never allows the play to become a mouthpiece for America bashing, but still manages to critique the state of the union artistically.

Additional points for:

  1. Giving the actors room for subtext
  2. Creative use of a red umbrella (production note, but worth mentioning)

 

The Brothers Khan

by George Pfirrmann

Brothers Dzhabrail and Rustam, Muslim immigrants to America, have grown apart. While Rustam struggles and has been drawn into a jihadist cell, Dzhabrail has settled in but has lost touch with his religion. When he invites Rustam over to repair the relationship, he accepts, but for a very different reason that threatens to destroy them both.

A very intimate personification of the conflict between traditionally “Eastern” and “Western” worldviews. Pfirrmann infuses the play with very specific conflicts between the two brothers in a way that keeps the action moving forward without becoming preachy. The Brothers Khan is essentially a love story gone wrong between two brothers and is never loses itself too far in the ideology. Audiences enjoy a pleasant buzz of mystery right until the very end.

Additional points for:

  1. Dzhabrail’s girlfriend Susan being developed beyond the “girlfriend” archetype and participating in and being necessary to the plot
  2. A wonderfully awkward “dance” scene

 

Cracked

by Rosemary Zibart

An Israeli-American woman returns to Israel to sit shiva for her father and learns that his Romanian caretaker has run off with his money and maybe with his heart. Nina struggles to figure out what went wrong as she battles with his caretaker over family possessions and with her brother over politics. In this engaging play the myths of family and country are cracked wide open.

Cracked is a family drama shaded with political overtones. The central conflict between the aging patriarch’s nurse and his daughter is the glue that holds the play together and raises timeless questions: What does it mean to love someone and how do you express it? Which version is more valid? Cracked is shaded by ideas of geopolitical nationalistic conflicts and is sure to stimulate conversations in the Jewish community and beyond.

Additional points for:

  1. Balancing character points of view
  2. A sympathetic antagonist

 

The Field

by Emily Emerson

The town of Avon is in trouble. With the local furniture plant closing down and hundreds out of work, everyone is in need of a miracle. One morning, a mysterious crop circle appears in a cornfield and with it, a series of unexplainable events cause the citizens to confront the question: If miracles do exist, what do you do with one when you get it?

Part small-town ensemble drama part “stranger comes to town”. This delightful play makes the bold choice to set all the action not in the field itself, but in a diner that’s the heart of the town’s life. There’s plenty of action in this hash-slingin’ situation room as the characters suss out what it all means and what they’re gonna do about it. All of the characters are instantly likable, and audiences will want to spend more time in the charming town of Avon.

  1. Lots of humor
  2. Wide range of character types
  3. Hush puppy cooking tips

 

Jim’s Room

by Albi Gorn

When Maddie meets Beau, there’s an uncanny connection, but the two are unable to pull the trigger on consummating the relationship as Maddie begins to believe she’s the reincarnation of Beau’s twin brother Jim. The relationship takes an unexpected turn and Beau has to decide whether he wants a girlfriend or his brother back.

Family drama meets love story but with a twist: they’re the same story. Audiences won’t be certain if they’re supposed to be weirded out by the idea or not, and that’s what makes this play unique. While the factual incestuous nature of Oedipus functions as a cathartic reveal, in Jim’s Room the characters struggle with choosing to believe it or not. It provides a fascinating obstacle for a young couple that is presented in an extremely rare set of given circumstances. Gorn’s dialogue and writing style are playful enough to keep audiences from pulling away from the narrative, and make them root for the character’s happiness.

Extra points for:

  1. Clever one-liners
  2. The ending (artistically open-ended and definitive at the same time)

 

A Hyacinth in the Mountains

by Claire Jamison

Arya, a young Yazidi woman from Northern Iraq, escapes ISIS enslavement and finds herself in a refugee camp on Lesbos, grappling with the warped memories of her crippling past. Guided by a social worker through the poetry of Sappho, she journeys on her road to peace and finally acceptance.

A heart-wrenching journey told through creative theatrical storytelling and infused with spoken word. Jamison has crafted and ambitious and beautiful play to bring audiences through the horror of enslavement, terrorism and refugee aftermath. The theatricality of A Hyacinth in the Mountains protects the audience from the truly gruesome aspects of the reality without sacrificing any of the emotional impact.

Additional points for:

  1. Clear non-linear storytelling
  2. Representation and diversity

 

Long Lost John

by Eddie Zareh

John Lennon was born during a Nazi air raid on Liverpool, an omen of things to come as tumultuous events would shape his young life. Abandoned by his father, he’s ripped away from his devoted mother to be raised by an unfeeling aunt. Depressed, he’s saved by a guitar strummer named Paul McCartney and 1950’s Rock ‘n Roll.

Biopics and stage biographies are popular, especially about musicians. Long Lost John is in good company among Beautiful and Jersey Boys, with The Cher Show on its way. Less of a musical and more of a play with a speckling of music, Long Lost John endears audiences to the early life of John Lennon. It’s impossible not to be drawn in as a young John Lennon struggles with his dynamic family situation, meets Paul McCartney and starts what many believe to be the greatest band of all time.

Additional points for:

  1. Reintroducing an icon
  2. Clever, biting dialogue

 

Nowhere Man

by Rob Dames

Harvey and Leon are two of the forgotten people. And Harvey is dying. To ensure that his best friend is not forgotten, Leon hatches an assassination plot. But the unexpected arrival of young Nicky upsets everything. As she begins to unravel Leon’s plan, she tries to convince Harvey to back out. But things become murky when she realizes Leon’s true intent.

Evoking Of Mice and Men, this three-hander is a crisp roller-coaster of a play. Each of the characters is crystal clear as they struggle with the morality of their decision. Dames expertly allows the characters and the play to shift tactics and focus, so by the end, audiences may have shifted their ideas about who is ultimately right and who is wrong.

Additional points for:

  1. The ending (very justified but not what’s expected)
  2. Very smart events and tactics under the constraints of a unit set in real time

 

Reflux

by Carly Brooke Feinman

Moments after saying “I do,” Martha and Bill are handed a map and pushed onto a sailboat toward their happily-ever-after. Not only must they navigate the wide ocean, they also must figure out what sex is before they get there. Unsupervised for the first time in their lives, they question society’s expectations that they’ve been spoonfed since birth.

A quirky, inventive “love” story. The conceit is simple. It’s the world of the play that makes the play engaging. Figuring out what the characters accept as normal versus what people in the real world accept as normal is how this play leaves its message with the audience. The stylized movement and vernacular of the dialogue is unique and flavorful, like discovering a new musician. Without descending too far into performance art, this play feels fresh.

Additional points for:

  1. Non-traditional casting
  2. A unique blend of candor and subtext

 

The Reigning Princess of Pop

by Craig Donnelly

Shayna Michaels is the biggest pop star in the world. When she exposes her equally famous ex-boyfriend as a sexual miscreant, everything backfires. In the fickle world of social media fame, Shayna faces intense backlash. In the end, she realizes that while her intentions were clear, her message was gray in a world that’s black and white.

Existing partly in Shayna’s mind and partly in the “real world”, this real-time drama auto-refreshes moment by moment. Following in the footsteps of plays like 12 Angry Men, Donnelly never dramatizes the event itself, leaving the audience to form it themselves through the context of the characters. Regardless of what conclusions the audience comes to by the end, the lingering question they’re left with is: “How important is specific truth to a social movement?”

Additional points for:

  1. All female cast
  2. Play is one continuous scene

 

Starbright

by Sean David Robinson

Grace is an astronomer and a grieving mother of 8-year old Abby. One dark night, Abby appears and makes predictions about the cosmos. Grace’s loving yet frustrated husband Calvin tries to talk sense to her, but it’s Grace who must determine if Abby’s appearance is a sign of dwindling sanity or proof there’s more to the universe than even she understands.

One part Proof one part Next to Normal, this emotional play checks all the boxes. Grace’s journey is crafted through specific actions, events and obstacles that wonderfully represent the themes the play is trying to tackle. Everyone has experienced loss, grief, and hope, and will easily find a way to identify with and be moved by this play. With a splash of spectacle in the form of the cosmos, Starbright comes together as a truly impactful play.

Additional points for:

  1. Smart characters doing dumb things for the right reasons
  2. Enough humor and self-awareness to mitigate the weight of the story

 

Sunset Village

by Michael Presley Bobbitt

After the death of her husband, Edna moves to a central Florida retirement community. She’s drawn into the seedy culture of a senior citizen never neverland where venereal disease rates are the highest in the country and everyone’s trying to outrun the sunset. In the process, Edna has to change or live out the remainder of her years alone.

This ensemble comedy is The Golden Girls meets Sex and the City. Bobbitt’s characters are a charming blend of acerbic humor and genuine compassion. The play never actually gets as seedy as it sounds, and stays anchored in Edna’s love story and the relationships of her new friends. Sunset Village offers a humorous glimpse into a wild retirement home and is sure to leave audiences laughing.

Additional points for:

  1. Non-traditional protagonist
  2. Many roles for mature actors

 

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