PROVO — The lights are out, the costumes gone, and the actors have all headed home. Last weekend was a treat sure to be on the minds of patrons and performers of The Echo Theatre.
After hosting monthly productions produced in house and by local theatre groups, The Echo hosted their first round of Echo 10. Twelve 10-minute plays were selected from over 70 submissions from all across the globe—quite a bragging point for a 9-month old theatre in 100 Block of downtown Provo.
Thursday featured two rounds—Group A and Group B—with the order flipping on Friday night. Audience members voted for their favorite scripts and the finalists performed in one last slot on Saturday night as a kind of showdown to win the gold.
The beauty of a 10-minute play festival is that if one show flops, another is right around the corner. Because I saw 12 shows, be warned that while some receive just two lines, others captured me a bit better and receive a good bit more.
This is a series you’ll want to watch for in the future. Fingers are crossed that this will be at least a twice yearly event.
Missed Connections, written by Marj Oneill-Butler, and starring Melanie Stone Thomason and Jared Leo Lynton.
A cute a quick meeting of two singles from the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. One will never quite “people watch” in Whole Foods the same way again.
I found Jared Leo Lynton’s performance in the first half of the show so natural and immediate. It really felt like what he was writing his lines on the spot. Melanie Stone Thomason provided a great energy and snappy tone expected of a girl in tribal pants hoping to meet up with the baseball cap wearing man of her dreams. Separate, I liked these two actors. Together, their rhythm just didn’t match up at all that well. I felt as though Thomason arrived at the meeting already prepped with a script and ready to shoot out her lines just before she needed to.
The script was funny, the performers were talented. The faults were in the direction to help coax that rhythm. Two more hours of rehearsal and I’m sure they’d have it.
A Shared Life, written and directed by Chase Ramsey, starring Cherie Julander and Taylor Eliason
This is something of a biopic of a couple from meet cute to marriage through ups and downs of a life together.
Cherie Julander was a blessing on that stage. She has the chops to connect to her character and the audience, despite conflicting direction and a partner unaware of the rest of the play. Taylor Eliason held a great deal of respect for the role, and he approached the meaty subjects of losing children and longing for love and connection quite well. On his own I’m sure his monologues could have been appreciated quite well, but when set in the context of the rest of the play his performance was the limping flat tire of a show unable to leave him behind. The problem was pacing. While the text and Julander’s performance kept things moving, each time we switched to Eliason the show dragged to a halt as one or two seconds were taken before speaking in an attempt to draw us into his moment.
Couple this hobbled gait with an artistic direction cemented more in a 1920’s vaudevillian style that really works until the text of the play reads more 1990’s anti-drug war, and it makes for an artistically frustrating and unfulfilling 10-15 minutes. There was so much potential here. It took a third of the play before the actors were allowed to observe each other and be an active participant in each other’s scene—as opposed to the scenery they started out as.
The show ends beautifully once the play has abandoned all rules established in the first few scenes and you lose yourself in Julander and Eliason’s finally unified performance.
Lucy Dreaming, written by Stacey Lane, directed by Hailey Nebeker, and starring Carolyn Hartvigsen and Melanie Stone Thomason.
This play was painful in such a very good way.
How often have you tried to fall asleep only to be kept awake by the racing ideas in your head that don’t want to be left alone? Stacey Lane’s script transplants this conflict to the stage with two characters. One is Lucy, and the other is in Lucy’s mind.
Thomason’s performance in this one-act was so much more immediate and meshed well with Carolyn Hartvigsen’s portrayal of Lucy, the insomniac. I think the strength in this production came from the director’s choice to play both characters separate, and focused downstage. There was no real physical interaction until late in the play, and I think that played dramatically well. Hartvigsen and Thomason were forced to listen to one another and that resulted in a pacing and dynamic that was nearly unmatched in any of the other productions.
The Society, written by Omar Hansen, directed by Daniel Riggs, starring Scott Parkin and Adam White.
It almost shames me to admit, but this play about a meeting of the Poetry Society interrupted by a phantom poem that actually has meaning fell flat for me. The performances by Scott Parkin and Adam White were admirable, but I had trouble finding anything of interest in the script and so my ten minutes were largely kept arguing with myself to remain focused on the action in front of me.
Talented performers, but altogether an uninteresting script with a nugget of a catchy premise.
The Pros and Cons of Sexual Harassment, written by James Best, directed by J.L. Blaine, and starring Cherie Julander and Patrick Newman.
Undoubtedly this play would prove to be a favorite of the crowds. A catchy title, inventive little script, dynamic actors, and a decent pace throughout—there’s not really all that much more you can ask for in a 10-minute play.
The Sum of Your Experience, written by Trace Crawford, directed by Brian Higgins and starring Michael Fairbanks and Michael Solarez.
Director Brian Higgins really set out to keep the audience engaged and thinking in this show. The premise of the play is simple. “Successful” man comes across a poor man on the street and is held up at gunpoint to abandon his stories. As the stories are told, a transformation overtakes both as they switch statures, poise, and position where he who was first is now last and vice versa.
I appreciated the care with which the actors and director approached these characters. It’s an artsy script and while that proves a stumbling block here and there, the actors pushed forward with a loyalty to these characters that allowed me to forgive their shortcomings and stay engaged throughout.
The technical elements were a bit ambitious considering the space and the nature of the festival, but I think they succeeded because they were so bare bones. The audience was forced to recognize and accept the projections for what they were and not be duped into forgetting they were there.
Adam and Eve, written by Davey Morrison, directed by Christopher Sherwood Davis, and starring Paige Guthrie and Mont Connell.
I read this script by Davey Morrison a few years back, and while I enjoyed it I always wanted to see if it would read better live. It does.
Director Christopher Sherwood accomplished something unique with his actors that night: clear characters with strong objectives using tactics to accomplish them. Yes, great acting and direction can be found in a 10-minute play on University Avenue in Provo.
Paige Guthrie and Mont Connell play the newly ejected Adam and Eve as they come to terms with leaving the Garden of Eden and accepting this new world of pain, emotions, and love. It was such a refreshing and honest take on that old story. I saw two people who were honest yet inexperienced at this new life navigating through those first 10 minutes away from God’s presence.
This was the most rewarding show of the night.
More Than a Dog, written by Kate Haderlie, directed by Patrick Newman, and staring Claire Hanson and Kris Paries.
The driving fact of the play was that the couple could not have a baby. The script talks around this quite naturally and Hanson and Paries have a decent grasp on the weight of the matter they are talking around. In such deep relationships though, with a quarrel this personally and painfully deep, I kept waiting for that moment when one spouse would say something to the other that nearly causes the floor to fall out from under them, and then they are forced to move forward together. This never happened. There was no great catharsis to from which to retreat or move forward.
Trenchmen, directed by Hailey Nebeker, starring Adam White, Greg Benson, Kyle Baugh, and Mont Connell.
Some decent direction by Hailey Nebeker pulled out a stellar transformation in Adam White. However, I never felt quite the unity or raw emotion I would expect of soldiers in the trench. I believe there was sincerity in the performance and direction, but the script would do well to have more mature actors and director engaged with it.
Hope as a Leak, written by James Arrington, directed by Margaret Poppin, starring Shawn Saunders, Belinda Purdam, and Jennifer Leigh-Mustoe.
The actors and directors brought their best to this shallow script. It attempts to be absurd, but resorts to cheap laughs and a deus ex machina of a kiss in the end. This text was the low point of my evening.
The Fork, written and directed by Dennis Agle and Ken Agle, starting Christian Busath, David Smith, and Mark Berrett.
Directors and writers Dennis and Ken Agle know their craft, and they know what is funny. The action of play centers around a struggling restaurant graced by the unfortunate death of a food critic, post-meatball. David Smith and Christian Busath carry the stage with such comedic finesse and caricature that perfectly foils the straight man Mark Berrett.
It’s simple, funny, and executed flawlessly. While the meatiest part of the play resides on the plate, there is no shame in 10 minutes of steady laughter from an adoring audience.