The Third Annual Open Doors Short Play Festival opened last Friday night at the Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio to a packed house. Whether it was the palpable energy in the audience or the bass thudding at the quinceañera next door, everyone was in high spirits; and despite the background noise (an unavoidable factor that this venue fields with utmost grace), the show went off without a hitch.
Open Doors proudly presents ten 10-minute short plays written by North Carolinians, directed by North Carolinians, and cast locally as much as possible. This particular type of show has the potential to be problematic, because having so many stories told in a short amount of time, back-to-back, juggles multiple factors that can easily lead to audience fatigue. This reviewer is happy to say that Open Doors dodged all of them by choosing excellent pieces, well directed and well-performed.
The short plays themselves are challenged to tell a well-rounded story in a short amount of time, complete with background information, character arcs, rising action, climax, and resolution. Each story delivered on most counts, although one tale failed to resolve in any tangible way, and another didn’t fully realize satisfactory character arcs. But those slight misses don’t put off the show as a whole, as most of the works are solidly on the beam.
The range of subject matter is delightfully diverse. Over the course of Friday evening, the audience is taken on a journey through the rocky relationship of an estranged mother and daughter; the unlikely bonding of a wife and “the other woman”; the untapped drama of the secret world of competitive quilting; a slice-of-life look at a life that might never happen; the testing of a relationship in the face of disaster; and the secrets families keep hidden in the shadows. Two more abstract pieces look at the frighteningly cold side of the #MeToo corporate world, and the devastatingly raw internal struggle of a woman coming to terms with the one that got away.
The festival is bookended by probably the two strongest pieces in an already robust roster. The Portrait of Laura, written by Gus Allen and directed by Mike McGee, had audiences in stitches, and boasted more plot twists than the rest of the shows put together, whereas Two Late, written by Allen Maule and directed by Gus Allen, brought the night home with a poignant look at the resilience of the human spirit and connections made in the least likely of places.
When it came to execution, there are naturally some standouts; but choosing them really amounts to splitting hairs as everyone was really on their game. New York transplant Laquana Henry and Elizabeth Gilbraith boasted the best chemistry of the night in their portrayal of parted lovers in For Allison, with Regret, written by Ezra Brain and directed by Rachel Pottern Nunn, whereas Elaine Quagliata and Jennifer Daly had the most compelling character development in Waiting, written by Amy Lloyd and directed by Spencer Nunn.
Judy McCord and Jerome Little brought probably the most heartwarming and unlikely relationship of the night in No Contest, written by Ken Walsh and directed by Dustin K. Britt). Rebecca Jones delivered well on the evening’s gut-wrencher Where the Heart Lives, written by Mike Brannon and directed by Nicola Lefler), topped only by Heather J. Strickland and Chad Cheffield’s moving performances in Two Late. Overall, drama was well matched against comedy, with the best pieces showcasing just the right balance of each.
Staging was simple and not credited per se; each show made use of Sonorous Road’s staple set pieces, and it should be said that changes between shows were executed well and with no time lost, keeping the show well paced. Nods to stage manager Kristie Kennedy for bringing all the pieces together. Lighting design becomes a key component in compilation shows of this type, so extra nods to Josh Wells for meeting the needs of each individual vignette.
Overall, the festival delivers laughs, tears, interpersonal insights, and social commentary; but most of all, an evening of solid entertainment. This is a showcase of talent that really shouldn’t be missed. Shows run through Sunday, Sept. 16th.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 9th Raleigh, NC Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/09/open-doors-short-play-festival-showcases-the-work-of-local-dramatists-directors-and-actors/.)
Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio presents its THIRD ANNUAL OPEN DOORS SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL at 8 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15, and 3 p.m. Sept. 16 in The Royal Bakery Building, 3801 Hillsborough St., Suite 113, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $18 ($14 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), including fees.
BOX OFFICE: 919-803-3798 or https://www.sonorousroad.com/tickets/.
INFORMATION: 919-803-3798 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW: https://www.sonorousroad.com/open-doors/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2134957073426605/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: https://www.sonorousroad.com/, https://www.facebook.com/sonorousroad/, and https://twitter.com/sonorousroad.
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She also studied dance at San Diego Mesa College and acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and at The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed locally at the Holly Springs Cultural Center in Holly Springs, Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum in Cary. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.