Published October 12, 2012
Midnight Sun showcases punchy 'Improbable Peck of Plays'MOLLY GILMORE
An Improbable Peck of Plays takes local theater to a new level: Yes, the cast and crew are local, but so are two of the playwrights in this evening of 10-minute one-act plays.The show, opening tonight, is the first in the 2012-13 season for Prodigal Sun Productions. Back after skipping last season because of financial struggles, The Midnight Suns theater company has teamed up with Theater Artists Olympia and the Northwest Playwrights Alliance for this production. The evening includes seven plays, four directors and an ensemble of eight actors, all playing multiple roles.Playwrights Bryan Willis and Dan Erickson live in Olympia; most of the others have some kind of Northwest connection. The directors chose the plays from a stack given to them by Willis, the NPAs playwright-in-residence.All of these plays are plays that the NPA has produced or that weve read over the years, he said. Were always looking to get plays in production.The time limit makes for fascinating theater, said Willis, known for such work as his adaptation of Jim Lynchs Border Songs for Seattles Book-It Repertory Theatre.Because they are 10-minute plays, we cant have elaborate sets or huge costume changes, he said. It becomes more about the script and the acting as opposed to high-tech special effects and this kind of thing.When most people write a 10-minute play, they wind up writing something thats more like a Saturday Night Live sketch, he added. That can be successful, but there are only so many sketches you want to see. A 10-minute play can be more than that.One example is Poor Shem, by Gregory Hischak.It takes place in an office, and a worker gets caught in the Xerox machine and is killed," Willis said. The workers have to decide what to do: Do you call the priest? Do you hit the bypass tray?It borders on being a sketch, but says so much more than that. Its clever and witty, but it goes beyond cleverness.A very different approach to the form can be seen in Williss own Evolution of Chaos.Its the interior dialogue of four women in a yoga studio, he said. They are trying really hard to find a moment of peace, which is easier said than done, of course.Because the play is set at a yoga class, the characters dont speak to one another, but the audience hears what they are thinking.The array of approaches keeps things interesting, said Prodigal Suns Elizabeth Lord, who gave the evening its name. She also suggested the ensemble cast approach, and directors Mark Alford, Samantha A. Camp, Vanessa Postil and Tom Sanders agreed on a group of actors.As an actor, if you are going to take the time to be present for a performance, you want something to do, Lord said. You dont want to have just one line and sit there for the whole night. Its fun for an actor to play different roles.Its also fun for audience members to see actors showing their versatility.