Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Half the Sphere Is Visible

The Drafts, the acting company of the Horse Trade Theater Group, recently presented When Half the Sphere Is Visible, an unusual collaboration among four playwrights, five directors, and nine actors. The four playwrights were tasked to write in response to the word dichotomy. Their work was then weaved together into one 90-minute piece.

While I admire the adventurousness of this conceit, I'm afraid the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The constant switching from one play to another ended up interrupting each's continuity and momentum. Granted, the idea of another evening of one acts isn't as interesting as the idea of this theatrical collage, but I think it would have served the writing better.

Take the TSA storyline, in which a traveler tries to develop a method of getting through airport security without losing all privacy and dignity. It's a comic piece, and of course the secret to comedy is timing. And perhaps in a movie, with quick cutting from scene to scene, the timing wouldn't have been quite so fractured. But this was a play, and between the interruptions for scenes from other shows and the moving on and off of scenery, all hope of comic build was lost.

The story of a lonely young woman who meets a spookily familiar stranger on a train was intriguing and moving--and even more damaged by interruptions. In this case, some of them were written into the play, in flashes (the woman in bed; the woman on the train; the woman at work) that couldn't actually flash because of the physical limitations of live theatre. When a scene change is longer than a scene, it hurts a play, and this one in particular deserved better.

The other two stories were less hurt by the interruptions, yet I still think that they would have been helped by being presented straight through. One, a sort of sci fi romance between a movie star and a librarian, lost some of its potential sweetness in this presentation. The other, a character-based good brother-bad brother tale, was left looking generic as the audience didn't have a chance to really get to know this particular good brother and this particular bad brother.

The writers were Jesse Cameron Alick, Matthew Gutshick, Michael McGuire, and Germono Toussain. The directors were Ilaria Amadasi, Jaclyn Biskup, Lindsey Moore Sproul, Sara C. Walsh, and Donya K. Washington. The actors were Juliana Carr, Reiss Gaspard, Paul Herbig, Alex Hodgins, Ben Kaufman, Lauren Kate Morrison, JB Rote, Marchelle Thurman, Amanda Van Nostrand, and Gary Warchola.

While this evening of plays ultimately got in its own way, there was plenty of talent involved, and I look forward to seeing more work by this company.

(press ticket; second row)

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