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14/48 ''the world''s quickest theatre festival''

Presented by: ACT

14/48, the world's quickest theatre festival (and Seattle's most inventive theatrical institution) is back again. The first weekend just finished at ACT Theatre, which means that 14 new, ten minute plays were written, cast, produced, rehearsed, performed and, after two performances of each play, consigned to audience memory in 48 hours. The seven plays I saw on Saturday night were, as is always the case, a combination of the strikingly successful, ambitious but not fully realized, always intriguing and enthusiastically performed and occasionally, but rarely, unsuccessful original creations. Any evaluation of 14/48 must be about more than the scripts, however, because the real dynamic and excitement is the entirety of creative energy that goes into every element of making this impossible theatrical sprint succeed every night and every performance. 

A theme is drawn either from company or audience suggestions and the playwrights are sent off into the night to write seven new scripts by 8 o'clock the next morning. For Saturday night, the theme was “bedtime stories” and the plays were about equally divided between those that focused on the bed and those that focused on the stories. The first play of the evening, “The Story of Us” by Patrick Scott was absolutely wonderful, a funny, touching, imaginative and genuine fantasy of three young servicemen returning to visit the widow of their comrade, and to bring her the story that he wanted her to hear in order to find some peace and resolution. Without becoming sappy or manipulative, Amy Love made us feel every bit of pain and loss as this woman tries to put order to the irrational, and as these ill-suited (Jason Harbor, Andrew Litzky and Shawn Law) guys attempt to put some grace into their comic storytelling. Erin Kraft had perfect balance in her direction and kept everything fast moving and emotionally controlled. Hard to believe this was a ten minute play, but it was one of those shows that didn't need to be one minute shorter or longer. Home run from the first at-bat.

Maria Glanz's “Third Time's the Charm” was a much lighter, slighter piece about three young children trying to tell a “romantic” story on request to a young girl when the two boys telling the story want something much more exciting, like pirates or something. It was a fast, amusing piece with one great gag in the middle and an appealing willingness to not try to be more than it was. Nicole Boyer Cochran directed it well and it was really like cookies and milk after a hard day of playing outside.

Scot Augustson is the sort of playwright who never really writes something simple and slight.  In “Cover Me” he explores a complex situation in which a man and woman in bed together draw the lines of convergence that have brought them to this place. The man is married to a woman who is obsessed with the fear contained in the headlines of the daily news. The woman is married to a man who is in custodial care for Alzheimers and losing more and more of what their lives together had been. The play is really an exploration of how holding each other is holding each of them together. In my opinion, there was too much here for a ten-minute play, but it really served as a kind of sketch for what a longer play (say 30-40 minutes) could and should be. Andy Jensen directed it very well and this was one of those shows that made me say, “oh, yeah. I'd like to revisit this in a few months and see what it grew into.”

A show that hit just the right balance of thematic weight and theatrical performance was Scotto Moore's “Coming to a Conclusion” a quite funny comedy that ended the evening. A woman has purchased a new “Orgazmatron” device into which she can stick her hand and, by pressing the button, be rapidly delivered to a world shattering orgasm. She introduces it to her friend, a woman who has found orgasms infrequent and less than transcendent, and another young gay man who sees great possibilities for “enhancing” his relationship. The partners are soon introduced to the machine and before long there are five people lying on the same bed, engaged in onanistic communion. That leads to a problem, though, in the proposal of sharing a single, group orgasm at the possible expense of their individuality, a prospect none of them is quite willing to undertake. Alan Bryce's direction got the most out of the physical comedy in this physical sexuality, and the whole show moved quickly and amusingly, with Moore's serious thematic considerations clearly in evidence, but not overwhelming the amusement.

Those were the shows that I especially enjoyed, but the entire evening was highly entertaining and the terrific 14/48 band, fronted by singers Alyssa Keene, Annie Jantzer and Heather Mullin kept their energy  and creativity backing everything that took place. As this weekend's new plays already fade into oblivion (maybe) the prospect of next weekend, when the whole process will being again with an entirely new company of artists, is only days away. If you've never been to 14/48, go. If you've gone before, then let this just be a reminder that this festival is the closest thing to a guaranteed great night in the theatre that you're likely to get anywhere. And you will never have a chance to see the best of Seattle theatre talent working together so closely, under such pressure, with such sheer joy and to such creative and astonishing results. 14/48 is special, and one hell of a lot of fun.

Photo by Michelle Bates

Written by:
Jerry Kraft

Added: January 10th 2011

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