BloomingPlays 2010 is the result both of winnowing and nurturing. Four plays were selected last August for staged readings. Then, more readings followed, along with more revisions, casting and still more revisions, right up to the opening of the first play, a full nine months later.
The results are April Smallwood's Russ Miles, a gritty drama of a sociopathic father; Chris White's Thespian, a hilarious send-up of theatrical resumes; Mathew Anderson's touching Virginia's Last Drive; and Gabe Gloden's quirky How to Kill.
Frank Buczolich was at once frightening, disgusting, pathetic and sympathetic as the crazed Russ Miles. Director Daniel Student keeps the action flowing through Russ's wild ups and downs. Gail Bray was the battered girlfriend, Taylor Crousore the prodigal son. Both give up on Russ in sad frustration and anger. At the end of the last scene, the only characters left are Russ' equally abused but dutiful son (played by Derrick Krober) and the memory of the family dog.
In Chris White's Thespian, directed by Chad Rabinovitz, a couple of construction workers are on the subway headed for to a theatre audition. Ben Smith is trying to coach Joe Bolinger and to beef up his resume. As they begin, Bolinger has only a single credit: He was in the chorus of a junior high production of The Music Man. By the end of their ten minute ride, Smith has him listed as having played the ghost in Hamlet, Biff in Death of a Salesman, a character named Stanley who's somehow appeared in On the Waterfront and Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. Everything from White's writing to the acting is sharp, incisive and very, very funny.
"Virginia's Last Ride"
Linda Ostermeier is charming in Virginia's Last Ride as a rather daft older woman whose single pleasure over the last three years has been her monthly visit to the DMV to take a driving test. She's always failed, but each time she's enjoyed a sort of romantic drive with her examiner, Bill. At the opening of the play, Bill has died. It falls to the new examiner, played by Kelly Lusk, to be the audience's set of ears. Directed by Jim Hettmer, the production is warm and touching, if perhaps a bit too drawn-out.
"How To Kill"
On Fridays and Saturdays the three plays are followed at ten by Gabe Gloden's darkly wacky How to Kill. Jonathan Lerner is a mild-mannered, shy young man who overcomes his social anxieties by imaging that he is killing everyone he meets – not just once, but many times, in many ways. His best friend (Daniel Petrie) is a hyper-aggressive hockey player, and the trio is rounded out by Shannon Walsh as a nurse who thinks that the human body is hilarious. The imaginary murderer, the jock and the caregiver spend a curious, involving and often amusing evening together. Under the direction of Timothy O'Neal, How to Kill keeps moving, in expected and unexpected directions.
Behind The Scenes
Shane Cinal's set design for BloomingPlays was neatly transformed from Russ Miles' pit of an apartment to a squeaky clean subway car for the thespians, to a Toyota Camry for Virginia and finally opened up for How to Kill. All the costumes were by Toni Scroggins and Anne Kojola Holen. Sound design, crucial both to the overall evening and to the individual pieces, was by Jeremiah Walker.
For more about BloomingPlays, listen to an interview with playwright Gabe Gloden and the BPP's Marketing Associate Holly Holbrook.