Little Grey Hat Productions’ latest play reading recently took place at the Starlite Lounge. Three plays by Dylan Jones; three works in progress. Reviewing works in progress isn’t exactly fair. So think of this as a non-review review.
By way of explanation …
The play’s the thing. In live theater, it’s usually a done deal, set in stone, registered at the copyright office. In obedience to theater guild rules, the actors read the script and bite their tongues if they feel like improvising. If the script takes them over a cliff, they jump. It’s not their fault.
But tonight’s triad isn’t exactly live theater. Not that the actors are dead or undead. But the plays are in workshop form — on an embryonic journey. So, I guess this makes this pre-parturition theater. As to the playwright …
Jones’ plays are melancholy allegories for the possibilities and impossibilities of human connection. His characters get backed into corners. Even when they give or receive salvation, it’s just another corner. But the man also has a sense of humor. The redemptive acts are occasionally con jobs. You never know, because Jones doesn’t telegraph where his plays are going. He’s also an economical writer. Where the average playwright would take two and a half hours, he cuts the fat and gets the job done in half an hour. Which is how he managed to fit three plays in an hour-and-a-half play reading.
“The Kissing Theory” is a weird tale of tainted love. Imagine near-future gene splicers who concoct a “cure” for homosexuality. Their cure becomes a disease that robs humanity of libido. (Which is another way of saying sex is no fun anymore, and all babies are test tube babies.) Other scientists concoct a cure for that, but it comes with a price.
“The Last Van De Kunst” is a Tom Stoppard-esque vignette of a tragic, suffering artist. A clueless one-percenter buys his sob story—and the painting in question.
“Chance’s Gift” revolves around a man named Chance. The ironically gifted eponymous character has precognitive dreams of violent death. But these future fates aren’t fated. Chance can save the people who die in his dreams. And he does—again and again and again. Like doctors, ambulance drivers and firemen, he’s constantly saving a few, but never everybody.
These dreams and nightmares unfold in a non-staged reading. Sitting in three chairs, Jones, Lauren Ward, and Neil Levine voice the various characters, red notebooks in hand. Standing at a lectern, Rebecca Roberts reads the stage directions. No bells and whistles. The actors are limited to voice, facial expressions and hand gestures. And deliver great performances, even so. Backed up by Jones’ well-crafted words.
Good stuff — in the process of becoming better. I can’t really review it, so I’ll tell you what it feels like.
This is theater with the lights on. Every now and then I suddenly realize … Agghh, the actors can see me. And, just to up the ante, Jones asks for audience input after each playlet.
Normally, nobody asks the critic for input, though they supply it anyway, after the fact. But tonight is a workshop, nothing’s set in stone, and everything’s up for grabs.
Abnormally, Jones is actually asking everybody, “How would you do it?”
And tonight, everybody’s a critic. More accurately, a creative participant. The evening resembles a script conference, a blue sky brainstorming session, a creative goof. Jones wants suggestions? Suggestions he gets. (I had a few too. While they resembled rejected scripts for “Amazing Stories,” you can’t blame a critic for trying.)
Jones, apparently a glutton for punishment, actually wants local playwrights to submit their stuff for future play readings. (I imagined a mob scene resembling the crowd of lepers in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But I didn’t try to talk him out of it.) If you’re interested, go to the contact page on the Little Grey Hat web site.
IF YOU GO
Little Grey Hat Productions’ monthly play reading happened Sept. 26 and 27, at the Starlite Lounge, 1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota. For more information, go to: www.littlegreyhatproductions.com.