Review: Short + Sweet Theatre – Top 30 Week 2

This week at Short + Sweet Theatre, it was yet another eclectic selection of quickfire plays for me to sink my teeth in to.  With each round, I’ve found the decision on which play to vote as my favorite becoming increasingly harder; I definitely don’t envy the judges’ position!

The evening starts off with a deceptively light-hearted play, The Gospel According to Bowser penned by Dan Borengasser.  As the title indicates, the play starts off as a Gospel-esque monologue by an unlikely prophet – the family dog, Bowser.  A loyal disciple to the “Omnipotent Master”, his beliefs are called into question and challenged on arrival of a new feline addition to the family.  They debate over their owners and the “futility of existence” before a pesky rodent shows up to settle the matter.  The play is refreshing, very cleverly written and I thought the two actors who played the family pets did a fantastic job, especially with nailing the mannerisms of the animals.

I found Monetum Productions’ The Gift to be a very uncomfortable experience – but not in a bad way!  It appears to be an ordinary day but when a man accepts a package from a courier, the situation quickly turns into a terrifying hostage situation.  The boundaries for on-stage torture is pushed to the limit and I thought the build up of dread and unease was very well executed.  The Wedding by Nocturne Theatre was also a somewhat uncomfortable experience but unfortunately not in a good way.  A couple are in a motel room after getting hitched though the ceremony was “more a stag do than a wedding”.  We watch on as their relationship unravels and while the actors played their characters well where it comes undone is the time shifts that occur.  I found it to be confusing and just didn’t work within the ten-minute format.

Two more plays that tackle relationships and romance are The Break Up by Glen Pickering and Renée Boyer-Willisson’s serendipitous tale The Smell of Rain.  James and his friends are at what I assume is some costume party (it is never explained why the characters are dressed the way they are) and the entirety of the plot raises the question: how much would you do for an extremely reasonably priced super king sized bed?  The Break Up is absolutely hysterical with excellent pacing and great comedic storytelling made all the more ridiculous with a furry elephant costume.  The Smell of Rain also raises a question – several actually – when Serenity meets “Mikey” by chance at a cafe on a rainy day and she conveniently decides it’s “share your problems with a stranger day”.  A rather quirky would-be/could-be love story very cleverly constructed and brilliantly executed.   I loved that Gingerbread man skit!

The best performance of the night for me was The South Afreakins by the Stampy Theatre Company.  The story kicks off backstage – we hear a couple with very distinctive South African accents conversing.  Only when Robyn Paterson comes to the stage and takes a seat do we quickly realize that she is both husband and wife.  The narrative had a well-paced arc with a good dose of humor while also having a strong message of home and identity embedded into it.  It is very much a one-woman show with Paterson wearing all hats in this production – playwright, director and actor.  I was incredibly impressed by how she embodied both Gordon and Helene; the way she swiftly alternated between both characters, skillfully changing voices and posture – it was just a flawless performance.

Boys’ Outing by Winter’s Collective was another well acted performance, in my opinion.  The entire plot takes place at a bus stop and centers on a conversation between two schoolmates as they wait for the bus.  Where the story lacks in action and movement, it more than makes up for it in performance.  Graham Candy and Ryan Dulieu do a commendable job playing Ben and Rich.  The chemistry and camaraderie between these two boys is evident which made the banter between them incredibly candid, all the more believable and enjoyable to watch.  A story with bucket loads of humor but also one with bite.  It tackles an issue that some would find uncomfortable to discuss but I thought whoever wrote it did an exceptional job at broaching the topic in a more accessible and “user friendly” way.

My vote for favorite play came down to Josh Hartwell’s A Different Client and the closing play, The Guilt Sniffer by Team M&M Productions.  Darren Taniue as the flamboyant “brown and down” call boy was a delight to watch and I absolutely loved the way the story unfolded and built up to the twist at the end.  That climax where everything was revealed and that chilling ending is something that I will not soon forget as it was just so unexpected and so incredibly moving.  I cannot resist a good detective story though and I thought The Guilt Sniffer had an interesting storyline, well-timed comedic moments and overall was just incredibly entertaining.  The narrative was well-constructed and made the most of the ten-minute time frame.  A great spoof and a creative take on the classic whodunit story.

So that’s two groups done, one more to go!  Looking forward to what the final groups in the top 30 have to offer.

The Whimsical Banana rates Top 30 Week 2:
The Gospel According to Bowser: 4/5 bananas
The Gift: 3/5 bananas
The South Afreakins: 5/5 bananas
Boys’ Outing: 4/5 bananas
The Break Up: 3/5 bananas
The Wedding: 2/5 bananas
A Different Client: 5/5 bananas
The Smell of Rain: 3/5 bananas
The Guilt Sniffer: 5/5 bananas

Short+Sweet Theatre is playing at The Herald Theatre and is presented by The EDGE in association with STAMP. For more information, dates and tickets click here.

For the full programme, cast and play information, check out the Short + Sweet blog.

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