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In the Open Doors Short Play Festival, the Great Overwhelms the Not-So-Great

OpenDoorsShortPlayFestivalPOSTER-SonorousRoadProductions2016

Sonorous Road Productions in Raleigh is a relatively new theater space in the Triangle, but it has really jumped in and made a big splash on the local theater scene. Not only has it offered a wonderful and eclectic lineup of shows; but it regularly sponsors workshops and classes, and shares its gorgeous space with locals who want to put on a new production. The current offering, Open Doors Short Play Festival, is an evening of 11 short plays that showcase new and not-so-new local writers, directors, and actors, giving them the opportunity to get their proverbial “foot in the door”. It’s an evening of hits and a few misses; but all-in-all, it’s an evening full of laughs and a few tears — the good kind.

The stories run the gamut, but the standout stories were:

The cast of <em>11:50</em>, written by Ian Finley and directed by Tanner Lagasca, includes Dustin Alexander Walker, Ted Willis, Thomas Porter, and Grayson Giugno  (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

The cast of 11:50, written by Ian Finley and directed by Tanner Lagasca, includes Dustin Alexander Walker, Ted Willis, Thomas Porter, and Grayson Giugno (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

11:50 by Ian L. Finley. This is the story of two lovers, together in New York City on New Year’s Eve, waiting to watch the ball drop at midnight. The author shows us the hopeful beginning and the tender end to their tale, cleverly jumping from past to present with the use of two sets of actors, one set older, one set younger, standing on a rooftop together, yet years apart. Grayson Glugno and Dustin Walker are wonderful as the younger characters, and they easily portray the hopefulness of new love and new beginnings. They have fine acting chops for such young people, with none of the usual stiffness found in actors their age. Thomas Porter and Ted Willis handle the adult breakup with grace and sadness. New Year’s was never so bittersweet.

Objectivity by Allan Maule. Burglary was never so funny! A homeowner (Mike Rumble) gets the drop on a well-dressed burglar (Thom Haynes). The homeowner ties up the burglar and guards him while they wait for the police. In the meantime, the burglar tells the homeowner that he will tell the police that he was kidnapped. “Think of it objectively,” he says. “Who will the police believe? A man in a suit or an unkempt homeowner?” And so the games begin, with each trying to convince the other that they will be the one going to jail. It’s a riotous game of cat and mouse!

Kurt Benrud (left) and Connor Gerney star in <em>The Acolyte</em>, written by John Paul Middlesworth and directed by Phoebe Dillard (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

Kurt Benrud (left) and Connor Gerney star in The Acolyte, written by John Paul Middlesworth and directed by Phoebe Dillard (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

The Acolyte by John Paul Middlesworth. A priest has called a young boy to his office. The moment is awkward. The boy is going off to college, and the priest is saying goodbye. The priest gives him a going-away gift. The priest tells him not to discuss their situation with others. The boy agrees. The priest wants to stay in touch. The boy is evasive. As the audiences’ concern starts to crystallize, the action takes a turn and not everything is as it seems. No spoilers here, but I will say that young Connor Gerney, who plays the boy, is a talent to watch. The priest is played by Kurt Benrud; and although I am biased (he is my writing partner and dear friend), his performance was really terrific. Kurt easily conveys the priest’s earnestness and frustration with his situation, and he shows us the holy struggling with imperfection. His tone was perfect. It was good to see Kurt back on the stage after a long hiatus.

Interrogation by Brook North. Not only is Brook a very talented actor, but a writer, too! Interrogation pokes fun at the military mindset and its justification for denying due process to the suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. It sounds horrid, but the play perfectly captures the circular reasoning of some in the military complex and underscores the irony of labeling detainees as terrorists before a fair trial. This play got the most laughs of the evening. It is truly inspired acting and writing! Jon Wright and Seth Blum were perfect military men in a perfect storm.

Seth Blum and Michelle Wells star in <em>Interrogation</em>, written by Brook North and directed by Lorelei Lemon (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

Seth Blum and Michelle Wells star in Interrogation, written by Brook North and directed by Lorelei Lemon (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

There were a few misses over the course of the evening. Eugene Christ by Connor Gerney was disorganized and too long, and tried way too hard to force the story of Jesus into a present-day high school classroom. (Eugene’s picking up a girl’s glasses is Jesus’ “making the blind see” such that the class proclaims it a miracle? Nope. Changing their bottled water to fruit punch with flavored Kool-Aid? Yep! Sharing a bagel in a last supper tableau. Saw it coming a mile away. Nope.)

And I’m still not sure what was happening in Drusilla Is Dead by Katy Koop, with its references to Caligula, emperors, and death, toys and trash strewn across the stage, and girls in gowns. I was lost.

But the great overwhelmed the not-so-great; and I applaud everyone’s efforts, and ultimately I highly recommend the production. It runs through this weekend. Pop over for some fun!

Thom Haynes (left) and Mike Rumble star in <em>Objectively</em>, written by Allan Maule and directed by Andy Hayworth (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

Thom Haynes (left) and Mike Rumble star in Objectively, written by Allan Maule and directed by Andy Hayworth (photo by Paul Cory Photography)

SECOND OPINION: June 22nd Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): http://m.indyweek.com/indyweek/skirting-the-line-between-theater-and-sketch-comedy-in-one-act-play-festival-open-doors/Content?oid=5044085.

Sonorous Road Productions presents OPEN DOORS SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL, featuring works by Gus Allen, Rebecca Bossen, Connor Gerney, Ian L. Finley, Katy Koop, Allan Maule, John Paul Middlesworth, and Brook North at 8 p.m. June 24 and 25 and 3 p.m. June 26 at 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.

TICKETS: $16 ($14 students and seniors), including fees.

BOX OFFICE: 919-803-3798 or click https://www.sonorousroad.com/open-doors/ and scroll down.

SHOW: https://www.sonorousroad.com/open-doors/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/187462758316924/.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.sonorousroad.com/, http://www.sonorousroad.com/location-hours/, https://www.facebook.com/sonorousroad, and https://twitter.com/sonorousroad.

DIRECTIONS: https://maps.google.com/.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews