24 is 10: The Best of The 24 Hour Plays
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 22, 2006
It is hard to see how 24-hour plays can be re-presented faithfully. By definition they are written, cast, rehearsed, directed, and then performed within a 24-hour period, producing not only a play, but an adrenalin rush for the participants that is viscerally felt by the audience. At the 24-hour evenings, the audience understands the constraints and forgives many of the plays' flaws that, given time, would have been corrected. In this year's Fringe, 24 Is 10 mounts the best of those plays in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the concept. There are two questions that immediately come to mind: can the original energy be sustained, and will the plays, which are written without benefit of time to think or edit, elicit the same positive response?
The answer is no. That is, the plays take on an inherently different feel since they are not limited by the 24-hour rule and the audience knows that there has been time for fine-tuning. Still, it can be an entertaining evening, but of a different sort.
Tobias, Angel of Heaven by Connor Ratliff launched the evening. It begins with a very busy, very brusque female G-d detailing the failures of the angel, Toby. Showing a less-than-merciful, but all too familiar Superior, Sami Plotkin sits behind a desk looking very displeased with Her woebegone, imperfect underling. Craig Grant's round frame and sluggish demeanor—not unlike an inefficient mailroom clerk—elicits sympathy. His copious tears draw laughs. Still, it feels like there is little at stake even though Toby is being expelled from Heaven. It is very much like a skit with a small plot and some good acting. The same is true for The Bus Stop by Candido Tirado, whose quirky characters might have come out of The Carol Burnett Show. Julie Wright brings awkwardness to new heights getting a number of laughs, and brings the performance to an entertaining end by lip-synching to the funny-because-they're-foul lyrics and live music (I think) by Matthew Brookshire and Erika Kapin. As far as legitimate theatre goes, however, it doesn't completely satisfy.
Moira Boag directs Brian Soliwoda, Samantha Phillips, Matthew Kinney, and Leigh Ann Larkin in a precise ensemble performance of Julie Stark's Crisco. It's about a family who physically wrestle every idea to the mat, facing a crisis when it is discovered that one of the sons intends to marry. In true play fashion, each character unfolds in a distinct way offering a few twists along the way to keep the audience engaged and laughing. The final offering, The Rumor by Dan Kois, offers a satire on homosexuality in sports. Directed with authenticity by Joe Ward, the play focuses on dispelling a rumor that Chuck Bonner is ambidextrous. Bonner, played with confidence by Garret Savage, is joined at a news conference by Chris Tingley (Sean Williams) and Larry Wakefield (Bradford Olson), with Nancy Wu as the excellent PR flack who attempts to control reporters (Tor Ekeland and Brice Gaillard) and deflect their inquiries. Kois keeps the plot simple and the metaphor for gay life in a he-man sport clear. The audience doesn't ask for much more than that.
Dream State, or the Subconscious Burlesque by Angel David does not have the same kind of focus. I found myself asking, ‘Why am I watching a stream-of-conscious flow of words when there was time to edit and add coherence to a silly, plotless device?" The performance had funny moments, some fine acting, too. What the whole evening lacked was the tight deadline that makes 24-hour plays incredible feats, leaving the audience mildly entertained with one-act plays—some simply silly and without purpose, and others humorous and more skillfully executed. In all, there are 25 plays, which are to be divided among five performances.