80s Shorts at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is a set of five ten-minute-plays that evoke the 80s. The commission came from the project's previous Artistic Director, Richard Perez. Yet it was the new Artistic Director, Chad Rabinovitz, who developed the set design and managed much of the construction: True to the period, the stage is a set of brightly colored Rubik's cubes with a huge TV screen at its center.
The Five Plays
First up, Doug Bedwell's Cinematicus Americanus brought the whole cast out for a lesson in eighties history. Their brief, pointed sentences outlined the period, while a posterized version of a battling Robin Hood flashed on a screen before giving way to clips from Reagan films. The dialog was pointed and snappy, but about two thirds of the way through, its power was diminished by the video's.
The second play, Eric Pfeffinger's Welfare Queen, featured the languid Emily Goodson as the petulant princess with Derrick Krober as the 'trickle down' and David Stockton as her nemesis.
With Hands, Jim Poyser won the award for smallest cast of the evening. His trio spent their ten minutes discussing their mixed motives for joining the "Hands across America" fundraising failure.
In a curiously touching piece that seemed more timeless than dated, 1981 by Steve Timm payed homage to an Indian legend with a plea for individual responsibility and courage. Its reference to the Big Dipper, whose pointers lead to the North Star, will doubtless linger with many of the audience for many months of summer stargazing.
80s Shorts wrapped up with Chris White's Marty & Doc Go to the Movies, in which the two characters from Back to the Future try to rewrite the ending of The Shining. Chaos ensues when they inevitably alter a string of later movies ranging from 1980's Caddyshack to 1989's The Little Mermaid. It got pretty messy as actors played multiple roles, but Gabe Golden as Jack Nicholson was a real treat.
The Boob Tube Plays A Role
Between each of the plays the big screen was used to good effect. A set of ads from the period was played in montage, interspersed with a video dance lesson for "The Robot," shorts from video games, and clips from a video dating service. Each drew its own amused reaction from the audience.