HATTheatre’s one-act series ‘Connected’ fails to connect
One-act plays have a rhythm and life all their own. Young actors are usually introduced to them as part of their high school theatre season or at One-Act Play Competitions. The greatest writers have all written one-act plays.
I’m not talking about the current trend to write 90-100 minute plays without intermission that suit the general public’s preference for brevity. Such plays are not long One-Act plays but rather a Two Act play written in the 90 minute One-Act form. Plays of less than twenty minutes must have fully formed ideas, themes and character development that are intended to be delivered in just that length. Totally finished. With a ten-minute length there is no time to ramp it up. Directors and actors must have made smart, strong choices for their skits to succeed.
HAT Theater’s “Black Box Players” chose ten scripts which ranged in quality. The ones I liked best were David Ives’ “Sure Thing,” Lisa Solange’s “An Earthquake,” Steven Dietz’ “Left to Right,” and Janet Kenney’s “Ma in Her Kerchief.”
The collection is entitled Connected, an evening of one act relationship plays. In honor of Valentine’s Day I’d guess. Slightly conventional. From pickups to marriage to interracial marriage to inter-marriage entanglements. Although it’s mostly fun to watch men and women spar, I did notice the absence of same-sex relationships amongst the ten selections. Couples are couples in any combination and they’re all very hard to keep together. There are appropriate LGBT one-act plays available, so I am curious. Is it a West End thing? HAT is the closest theater to my house so I have some worries.
Taken as a whole, the bonding that adults seem compelled to do with each other is pretty comical.
There is some very good acting to be seen. Annie Zanetti, Patricia Alli and Dani Brown all gave very affecting performances.
But the performances in general were not helped by uninspired staging. The HAT theater space is long and narrow. The dimensions pose staging challenges. The excellent shows I have seen there have all found a way to use this space creatively. Here, too many scenes were played in the open, creating one of my favorite circles of hell, the “Empty Space.” Unless you’re Peter Brook, it’s quicksand.
The staging was static. Standing and talking. Sitting and talking. There was little attempt to manipulate the space. The more experienced players found ways to shake it up but there were not enough of those moments.
There was also a fair amount of line dropping with shaky recoveries.
I attended Henrico Theater Company’s One-Act Play festival earlier in the day so I have now been immersed in the dramatic form. On the whole, I love the challenge it presents. What I didn’t understand is that one-acts have a higher degree of difficulty. HAT may not have expected or been ready for that.
Connected didn’t connect very well and left some good actors stranded. Henrico needs stronger theater. Why should Richmond have all the fun?
You find yourself smiling. You smile because the complications are adorable and you are touched.September 16, 2016
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