‘Shorts and Briefs’ at Springfield College
Our entertainment tonight was seven short plays performed by students and faculty of Springfield College.
Three of the plays were written by college professors, the other four were student written. What I found was that although ten minutes feels like a lot of time, when you think about what has taken place, it’s not as noteworthy as a show where characters take an hour and a half to open up.
I think this is the fundamental flaw that I couldn’t escape. Even though the dialogue goes on for ten minutes, the scene never changes, and nothing is resolved. Each of the plays was about a couple, in varying degrees of conflict, but in that little space of time nothing can move very far. So you get one dimensional characters who are stuck doing what they are doing…then black.
The show began with director Martin Shell, the college’s Theater Director, gently introducing us to what’s to come. It was unlike most of these ‘a bit of housekeeping’ intros, it was more of a nod, a scene setting, as he explained the premise of the seven plays to come and introduces us to Jack and Laura, the first of seven couples.
Here the title of Becky Lartigue’s new short play is ‘Sure’, and Laura winces every time she hears that word, owing to the memory of her previous husband, now her ex. We meet a perfectly decent guy named Jack, who has driven an hour to join Laura on this coffee date. She’s frazzled by him, not sure if it was that she was attracted or just that he used the word ‘sure’ and that set her off like a buzzer each time.
They have coffee and she secretly phones her friend three times to try and figure it all out. She is a bit ditzy and Jack senses that something about her is off. So does the audience. Again you’d need a lot more scenes to really explain her tics and funny reactions to Jack’s quite normal behavior.
Play two was The Blueberry Hill Accord by Daryl Watson. This was all girl talk, challenging, parrying, calling bull and going in silly circles. An argument that sort of got settled. But you could tell there were more like waves, waiting to pop right back up. In the third play, called Not-so Brightspace playwright Becky Lartigue is back. This is just a sliver, a short scene, but a funny scene in which both Professor Sullivan (Becky) and her student Krissy (Octavia Courcy) have a problem. The essay wasn’t turned into the professor’s mailbox on time, and now the student can’t figure out what to do or whose fault it is. They both had some great lines and the dialogue was crisp and worked well.
The Bucket Brigade by Annie C. Wheeler was next. This one had a couple and a juxtaposition of eras…it was Fresno California but Uncle Eddie (Martin Shell) was obsessed with his friends in the Castro who were dying of AIDS, and he himself had the disease. But his wife, Divine (Chelsea Corr-Limoges), spent her time on stage in front of her laptop in headphones. It was a Zoom classroom in 2021, and she did an excellent job portraying the frayed, disappointed modern day public school teacher having to do the remote learning with indifferent students.
At one point virus sceptic Eddie lunges at the AC repairman (Paul Thifault) doing that particularly nasty thing where people try to cough their disease onto another person. The references to AIDS are confusing because that era was 30-40 years ago, and the pandemic was just….2021. I’m not sure why he did that, and there was nothing else that could corroborate that he is a good or a bad person. Fade to black.
Hope Chest by Ellen Melaver followed, with Sallie (Octavia Courcy) and Mara (Dikshya Upadhyaya) presenting some hand me downs from mom. But the clever quandry was that one of the gifts was an eating disorder and another was insomnia. “No thanks,” says the younger Sallie. “But I’ll take those pearls!” NOPE says Mom. You get all three, or you get nothing. The good with the bad, as it were. A clever premise and each actor kept it hopping in this play.
In the next play “Corrector” by Maximillian Gill, two characters face a tough choice in a basement in the future.
The final play was about Mag (Chelsea Mensah) and Moo (Octavia Courcy) and it was called “Peace Negotiations.” The couple bickered and some of it was funny.
Before the Show
Jack and I had several stops in mind. First, we checked out a store that was a much less expensive and bare-bones version of Home Depot (super cheap cabinets and doors!), called Home Outlet.
This place is simple, with only a few employees, but the prices were low and the cabinets contained no particle board. A great find.
We carried on to downtown Springfield, driving under the canopy of lights near the movie theaters at MGM, and parked on Main Street to have dinner at Nadim’s Downtown. The simple fare here like hummus, falafel, Mediterranean salads was a nice light bite, the folks at the bar were friendly and so is the staff. Good choice.
Shorts and Briefs, at Springfield College Nov 11, 12, 2023 Appleton Auditorium, Fuller Arts Center $5 donation.