The beauty of Open Fist Theatre Company is that they cover the waterfront, the capital, the scene and art.
"What Matters Now ?/!" Features a number of short playlets that speak directly to the hopes and fears; the irritations that every American faces today. The political bent is liberal. Each evening of shows will be slightly different. The nine short plays seen on opening night will change over each weekend of the run.
Opening on Friday, March 15th a receptive audience lounged on sofas or sat at cafe style tables: The Open Fist Speakeasy. The casual atmosphere transforms the theatre into a sort of black box, thrust staging cabaret. Each short play is done with minimal set pieces and few props. It's all up to the writing, the directors and the actors.
First up (full disclosure, the director, Jan Munroe is a pal) is "Electric Eye" by Timothy Mooney featuring Phillip William Brock as Man. With growing paranoia, Man is surrounded by electric eyes in a public restroom. A closed stall features a non-communicative person taking a long time to do his business.
The Man addresses his concerns to himself and to his silent companion while trying to do his bathroom business plagued by uncooperative facilities. Whomever has not wondered why the toilet in a public restroom sometimes may flush and sometimes may not is the foundation of The Man's concerns. It works. Directed by Jan Munroe who doubles in the stall and assists with special effects. Excellent.
|Philip William Brock in “Electric Eye”|
Photo by Darrett Sanders
Written and directed by Amanda Weier, "Heart Attack Zack" features three beautiful women, Dionna Veremis, Brittany Lauren Brown and Ann Marie Wilding who discuss the issues of a meet up with a gorgeous guy who may be a killer. Yikes.
"An Awful Waste of Space" by Natalie Zutter and directed by Christopher Cedeño features Kenia Romero and Sherry Larson respectfully as a lone park ranger and an extraterrestrial in the least effective dialogue of the evening.
Possibly the most effective playlet of the evening "High School Intifada" by Cary Gitter features Caroline Klidonas as Rivvy, a high school girl with strong opinions and observations regarding the current issues of Palestine and Israel.
Christopher Cappillo's staging with Klidonas seated down right and the high school principal, David Shofner, seated up and to the left behind her offers a dynamic that focuses the issues in a strong and forceful way. A "pop up political" that makes the audience directly engage with this particular issue works and works beautifully.
|Caroline Klidonas and David Shofner|
in “High School Intifada”
Photo by Darrett Sanders
Klidonas is particularly strong as the student accused of bullying and called to the principal's office. She is not repentant.
"Unquiet American Dreams" by Jaisy Bates and directed by Laura James features Katie May Porter.
"A Dream of Two Moons" by Dorothea Cahan and directed by Laura James features Lori Gamber and Becca Cousineau as gal pals in a not too distant future dystopian world where kevlar and childrens back packs with bullet proof lining are every parent's nightmare .. come true. Just going in the street can get you killed.
“But I’m Not Really” by Bonnie Ratner and directed by Art Hall is a solo piece with Beth Robbins as an indecisive yoga instructor. Robbins seemed tentative at best.
Brett Sursey's strong polemic: a story of redemption with "Toppers" features Megumi Smisson as Bobbie, a woman firefighter and Rod Menzies as Seth: seriously scarred from a fire. Bobbie saved Seth from certain death in a fire. She has come to visit him with a special cake that features a pair of 'toppers' the traditional wedding figures we are all familiar with.
Palpable tension makes this piece and the polemic of how heavy judgements and fear lay groundwork for our lives is beautifully and sensitively written. Christopher Cappiello's direction allows the actors moments that build to a welcome conclusion. Not unlike Bekah Brunstetter's "The Cake" first seen next door to the Open Fist space in 2017 at The Echo, we learn that the baker, Seth, has had personal issues with gay marriage. Firefighter Bobbie has had to deal with her own hard feelings when doing the 'right thing' is presented to her doing her job. Excellent work by Smisson and Menzies.
|Megumi Smisson and Rod Menzies|
Photo by Darrett Sanders
In "Pandemonium" by Bara Swain and directed by Amanda Weier, we meet Bryan Bertone and Stephanie Crothers as expectant parents Abby and John as they wrestle with the way their lives will change.
Continuing through April 6, 2019 it's catch as catch can. The line up of the plays changes from performance to performance. Check the Open Fist website for specifics. Other plays not up at the opening will be presented as the run progresses.
The beauty of these presentations is our ability to hear new voices and see in short form snippets of writing by possibly future Pulitzer candidates as they try their wings.
WHAT MATTERS NOW?/!
Political Pop Ups of the THEATRICAL KIND
Open Fist Theatre Company
In residence at The Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Through April 6, 2019
Tickets and information
323 882 6912