Ten Minute Madness is an extension of the very popular short-play festival held at North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe. The major difference is that the proprietors, under GB Productions, selected and directed all of the plays. The result was a higher degree of professionalism, very good casting, and a more accomplished cast.
The downside, of course, is that the opportunity for brand-new, untested talent was not showcased. The upside, of course, is higher production quality. More later.
The plays varied from a very profane A Pirates Life for Me by Noonan, ND playwright Alex Dhuyvetter to touching Blue Bikini by David Lewison from Los Angeles. In the former, Rob Gworek and Kathy Rex play computer drones for a tyrannical boss played by Chuck Hart. Gworek and Rex are a perfect balance between craziness and work ethic and logic. He is off conquering the world of pirates while she chides him to get back to work. A very good team.
Blue Bikini, which we actually never see, is a pure delight as Gworek and Marely Ramirez present us with two very shy people that don’t really meet one summer at the beach. Shyness takes its toll on possible love. The story begs the shy ones to attempt a first comment, a first serious eye contact.
Sue Brody of Brookline, MA wrote One Last Fight starring Brian Burke and Hal Conley as a father and son. The theme is the antagonism that has built up over the years. Interesting. Burke was convincing, Conley tended towards being a bit over the top, expressing his character’s anger in volume.
Another strange piece was San Francisco playwright Lauren D. Yee’s Zachary Zwillinger Eats People. Zach (John Fojtik) seduces lovely women, such as the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kathy Rex), only to feast upon them after the dance. Report Lauren (Ramirez) gives us a running commentary. Her reporting is very networky and plays well against the total insanity of Fojtik’s munching seducer.
Flashes is another touching story from the pen of Tom Tunnington of Bricktown, NJ. We meet Edna (Lynda Bell), aging, a bit senile, in a nursing home. We also meet her in her youth (Marely Ramirez), along with her young husband (Gworek) during WWII and her mom (Summer Golden). Chuck Hart, as Scott, handles her wheel chair, and Mary (Rex), who is interviewing her, bridges the present with the past. Interesting look at the two ages.
The Polite Bandit by Willie Marcus from Baltimore, MD is interesting as much for the dialog as the silent acting. It takes place in a market checkout line. The whole cast, except for Hart as the Store Manager, are in line. One very obnoxious patron (Golden) is in an almost constant rant of impatientness. Rex, the bandit, on the other hand waits patiently in line. The power of acting is seen by the cast as they checkout. Their interaction with the checkout person is truly amazing. Their credit cards don’t work or their signature is bad or somebody can’t count change or they can’t find the exact change or God knows what else. All of this is done in mime to a nonexistent cashier. Excellent work by all.
My favorite was the nicely satirical A Matter of National Interest, inked by San Franciscan Cary Pepper. This is a news junkie’s dream as reporters from various stations rehash the same story over a period of few days. Stations included KBAR, WACK, KOOK, KORN, and KXOB, which represent the spectrum from straight news presentation to FOX Noise. Excellent writing and fine interpretation from the serious (Hart) to the stereotypical sexy reporter (Ramirez).
I’ve watched some of these performers for a number of years. I’ve seen them grow into accomplished, polished actors. Ramirez is ready for prime time. I think that Rex has always been ready for top billing; in fact, she gets in some of the other productions presented by GB Productions. Bell brings sincerity to each of her roles. I’ve worked with Burke and he really gets into his roles. I’ve watched Fojtik from day one, when the stage was a bit scary. Now he commands it. I first saw Hart at Fault Line. The progress is great. Conley was fun to watch, even in a rant. Gworek is convincing whether he is a nut, a soldier, or a shy guy. Golden gave us one of her strongest performances.
This was one of the most solid presentations yet at North Park Vaudeville and I truly enjoyed some fine performances. Alas, I did miss the tyro directors and actors that are seen at festival time. Those casts may be walking onto the stage for their very first time. There’s a special thrill in that. There’s also a special thrill when you see someone that you know will eventually be on the more elite stages in San Diego. And, yes, sometimes that first time on stage is traumatic for both the actor and the audience. But thank you North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe for giving these people that opportunity.
Lynda Bell, Brian Burke, Hal Conley, John Fojtik, Summer Golden, Rob Gworek, Chuck Hart, Marely Ramirez, Kathy Rex
Total Rating: Two and a half stars
Genre: Short plays, varied subjects
Director: Jeff Bushnell & Summer Golden
Date Reviewed: February 9, 2008
Dates: Friday and Saturday, thru February 16, 2008
Running Time: 126 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
North Park Vaudeville
2031 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 647-4958