Exciting Interludes at the Playhouse
The best plays are those that both entertain and challenge, as was proven last Saturday, when the first half of "Island Interludes," was performed at The Vineyard Playhouse. The series of staged readings of new works by Island writers, which concludes this Saturday, offers audiences a slightly different kind of theater experience, one that asks audience members to draw on their imagination to fill in the sets and costumes.
The original short plays are presented in an informal setting, using only chairs and music stands as makeshift props. The audience becomes part of the experience for playwrights, who can observe people reacting to their new work.
This past Saturday, plays by two Island playwrights, Jay Kaufman and Susanna J. Sturgis, were read with expression and enthusiasm.
Ms. Sturgis's piece, "A Midsummer Night's Alternative" is a spirited take on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The playwright, having acted in the 1995 Vineyard Playhouse production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," developed a connection with the classic tale of the mischievous Puck and all the rest. Scripted in the style of Shakespeare, Ms. Sturgis's light-hearted version alters circumstances and extends boundaries.
She says, "Great plays reveal new facets with each production, good productions yield new insights with each performance, and Will Shakespeare might forgive a woolgathering extra for going off on some tangents of her own."
The eight actors were each able to bring relationships to life with convincing fluidity. When the characters ate chocolates from a seemingly bottomless box of Chilmark Chocolates (the sole prop), the audience sounded their approval, and laughed at the other absurdities at each twist and turn.
Carefully modernized, the play asks provocative questions: What if the mutually devoted Hermia and Helena didn't have to do the socially acceptable thing and marry guys? Gender roles and societal "norms" are challenged in a humorous way.
The second reading, Jay H. Kaufman's "Crosswords," deals with the issues of the polarities in American society, and specifically with the war in Iraq. It takes place the morning of Memorial Day in Edgartown. An aging academic couple argues as the husband attempts to complete the Sunday Times puzzle. "Crosswords"
"I'm a great fan of the values which America represents at its best. I like using characters to voice different vantage points." says Mr. Kaufman.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
In "Crosswords," the five relatable characters bring a premonition of something untold and waiting to be revealed, that at times leaves the viewer feeling a bit wary.
The Edgartown couple seem disconnected, especially the defensive and cynical husband. Still, there is something sympathetic about them. The characters, who include a Brazilian man and his daughter, present a broad range of feelings. Part of the success of Mr. Kaufman's play is the surprising dramatic twist at the end.
This Saturday, the remaining short play, Brian Ditchfield's "Kim and Delia," will be read. An Island native, Mr. Ditchfield is a member of the Playhouse staff, is a familiar presence among theatergoers. He has established his credits as a playwright with such work as his 2004 film, "Marlboro Patch," and last year's Playhouse staged reading of "Five, Seven, Five." His play this year tells the adventurous tale of a young girl and her imaginary friend as they travel to find her mother.
"Kim and Delia," by Brian Ditchfield. Vineyard Playhouse, Saturday, May 31, 7:30 pm. Tickets available at the door. 508-696-6300.
Gimili Glavin is a freelance writer living in Chilmark.