By David Walters
Throughout history, times of restriction have fostered leaps in creativity. I was around when the Supreme Soviet voted the USSR out of existence and was in contact with Russian playwrights at that time. What was said to me repeatedly, was that they didn’t know how to write anymore because there was nothing to push against. Adversity gives rise to human ingenuity and spunk. If you’ve got something to push against, it feeds the creative juices about how to either get through, around or under the wall.
Currently theater companies around the world are pushing against the Covid wall and tapping their ingenuity to foster work for actors and writers, learning how to be relevant and find an audience during these multi-leveled restrictive times. If you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find a way. I think everyone of us involved in theater wants to bad enough, it’s a crazy thing to pursue and even more crazy at this time in history.
Eden Theater Company is stretching its creative muscles with a benefit series (all proceeds are given to Equal Justice Initiative) called The Room Plays, short one-act productions that take place, “in the rooms that we create for ourselves, and the rooms from which we have no immediate exit.”
One of The Eden Theater Company’s directives is to examine limits that are both self-imposed and applied from without, thus the concept for the series of room plays presented via Zoom during Covid that they are currently producing. They’ve previously presented The Bedroom Plays on June 9, I was able to attend The Living Room Plays on July 16, and The Bathroom Plays will YouTube stream Thursday, August 6 at 8:00PM EST.
The Living Room Plays (three one-acts) were presented with earnest intent and heart, all developed in virtual collaboration, something musicians have been doing for quite some time and theater is going to have to find its way through.
The three pieces are thought-plays meant to leave you with something after you’ve turned your computer off.
The Pedicure presents a long-married husband and wife (Mark Moses and Annie Larussa) who have been quarantined for 243 days. Having gotten bored with their sex life and trapped w/ each other due to Covid, they create a fantasy sex play game, pretending that Covid doesn’t exist and the woman had gone to work as usual in a medical facility and had an encounter w/ Dr. James from the Greek isle of Santarini. This is all relayed while the husband is giving her a pedicure on the couch in the living room and asks her questions about her day as she relates, slowly and suggestively, the dalliance. One can only pretend so much though, Covid doesn’t wants to join in the reindeer games and won’t let them forget. A simple cough brings them back to reality at warp speed.
First Day is the first day of an online art history class that devolves into the class getting threatened and lectured to about the suffering of black people by a professor (Amanda Enzo) with a private agenda. The professor is presenting the class from her living room and her anger and passion about her subject matter becomes one note and the audience (cast into the role of Zoom students) can’t help but tune out. That one note is a strong note yes, but no variation in pitch or tone. There are strong points raised during the class (If when everything matters, nothing matters, why then when nothing matters, everything matters?), but they get lost when the same drum is beat again and again.
snapped-shot is a post-apocalyptic world where the character Fallen (played by Frank Humphrey) suffers in a garage (where’s the living room?) in the inner turmoil of his own mind pushed by the voice of Freedom. There are strong images in the piece, ants crawling across Lincoln pennies, and connections to the American Civil War march across the warring factions in his mind. I can see that the playwright has something specific that he wants to say, thoughts and feelings that he wants to share, but it was ultimately unclear in the presenting.
Internet theatricals are not an easy slide-step from live productions. I think it’s more closely tied to the mocumentary form, the pretending on camera that what is being seen is real in order to tell a story. The camera makes all the difference as it’s the only spectator. It’s a whole different ball of wax for writers, directors and actors. I’ve seen Zoom plays where the story is told in a zoom meeting. I’ve seen filmed plays on a stage. I’ve seen plays written for the one still camera on the computer. Mocutheatricals is what I’ve termed them. But I have to ask myself, at what point are they no longer plays and now something else?
Eden Theater Company presents THE LIVING ROOM PLAYS
The Pedicure, written and performed by Annie Larussa and Mark Moses
First Day, directed by Diane Davis, written and performed by Amanda Enzo
snapped-shot, written by Mario Gonzales, directed by Ran Xia, featuring Frank Humphrey
Tune into The Bathroom Plays which will YouTube stream Thursday, August 6 at 8:00PM EST. Click HERE for a reservation.