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Urbanite Theatre enters unknown territory with 10th season

Olivia "Liv" Scanlon stars as Shakespeare's sister in "Judith" at Urbanite Theatre from Jan. 5 to Feb. 18, 2024.
Olivia "Liv" Scanlon stars as Shakespeare's sister in "Judith" at Urbanite Theatre from Jan. 5 to Feb. 18, 2024.
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“X” marks the spot for pirates’ buried treasure and math’s unknown quantities.

Both definitions apply to the plays of Urbanite Theatre’s “Season X.”

With one exception, the plays in the "black box" theater's 10th season offer a variety of mousetraps, reversals, swerves, and surprise endings. My point: Any plot summary would ruin the ride. We’ll try to say something without saying too much. Listen up.

“In the beginning was the Word.” Our species in particular just can’t shut up. Human lives are filled with arguments, agreements, dissensions, debates, insinuations and implied contracts that are never spelled out. 

Trust is the key conditional clause in these contracts. If a friend says, “Close your eyes for a big surprise,” it’s understood he won’t punch you in the face. It happens — and worse things happen too. 

Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside” revolves around the private lessons a writing professor gives her student. Their words are all about words. Some words become deeds. Some shouldn’t. What do their words become? I have no idea — and that scares the hell out of me. (Directed by Kristin Clippard. Oct. 20 – Dec. 3.)

Katie Bender’s “Judith” is the one Urbanite play I can talk about. No trapdoor, no twist ending. Shakespeare’s sister Judith turns out to be a better writer than the Bard. That’s how the story goes — and it’s no big surprise. When Judith’s brother gets in trouble with the law, she dons fake facial hair and men’s clothing and bails her big bro out.

Londoners think Judith’s a powerful man in the Elizabethan theater community — and give her R-E-S-P-E-C-T. She likes it — and doesn’t want to go back to the second-class status of women in her time. 

Fun fact: Bender got the idea from Virginia Woolf. That author had wondered, “Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say.” Bender belatedly answered that question with her one-woman play starring Olivia "Livy" Scanlon. (Directed by Brendon Fox. Jan. 5 – Feb. 18.)

Brenda Withers’ “Westminster” is a play about a rescue dog and the intricacies of classism. When dogs cross boundaries with humans, “Bad dog” is the typical human response. When human friends cross boundaries with each other, communication is far more difficult. 

When is “friendly” banter a not-so-friendly way of putting somebody in their place? If you don’t know by now, you’re obviously a moron and I’ll stop wasting my time. (Just kidding.) The play’s “titular dog” exists in the mind's eye and doesn’t compete with the actors on stage. This isn’t a play about a dog. Or is it? (Directed by Summer Wallace. March 22 – April 28.)

Terry Guest rattled cages and yanked chains with his gender-bending “Wake of a Dead Drag Queen.” His “Oak” enters far more disturbing territory. This play feels a little like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a little like “Night of the Hunter” and far too much like the Confederate South’s bloody, bloody legacy. 

But it’s not all nightmare. There’s also a heaping helping of cute little rascals with nicknames like “Suga,” “Big Man” and “Pickle.” “Oak” is both a ghost story and a children’s story. The kids in Guest’s Southern gothic horror show believe in the ghost. Kids are smart. (Directed by Mikael Burke. May 31 – June 30.)



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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