A Shot In the Arm The Hunger Artists’ Beyond Convention is the back-alley crack you’ve been pining for
Dorothy Parker once quipped, “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” a twist on Shakespeare’s original pronouncement on wit. Being brief and witty (especially in lingerie) is no easy task, however—especially if you’re doing live theater.
And the 10-minute one-acts that comprise the Hunger Artists’ Beyond Convention could’ve been a challenge: cramming in plot points and themes and getting them across to the audience without turning to mush. Yet, in this format, both playwrights and audiences are able to take wilder, more unexpected journeys that might be less sustainable in a lengthier time frame. And in Beyond Convention, these sometimes-schizo, always-intriguing journeys make for one hell of a good time. Some highlights:
Moon’s Interview is easily the most topical piece. The unemployed Mr. Moon (formerly of Lehman Bros.) interviews for a new accounting job with Mrs. Treat, an AIG rep. The dialogue is written entirely in Seussian verse, and both Judy Gish and Scott Keister manage to elevate the seriousness of Moon losing his family in the midst of an economic recession and Treat’s corporate cold shoulder above the green-eggs-and-ham singsong. Simply smashing.
8:55 Tech Center Drive takes aim at the physical and mental violations of faith by professed believers—a man and a woman are devoted mega-churchers, yet routinely commit adultery (him) and pine for the “vice old days” of drinking and casual sex (her). Get your excellent mini-exposé on religious hypocrisy here!
In a truly esoteric stint, What’s the Meta? offers up a conversation between the words that make up two different characters in a play—yes, the words themselves discuss their placement and importance in the work their actors are about to perform, with the bigger part helping the smaller part overcome a brief ego crisis. Big props to Topher Mauerhan and Kaitlyn Tice for making me speechless.
Director Anthony Galleran and especially actors Christina Martinez and Jeremy Gable all deserve some kind of golden, shiny, award thingy for taking on Remote, a crazy-paced piece in which a couch-potato couple suddenly becomes possessed by TV soundbites whenever one holds the clicker. The rapid-fire delivery breaking up normal conversation just screams lockjaw for them—and a blast for the audience.
While I had no idea what the hell was happening in the reality-show-meets-gladiator-meets-Harrison Bergeron goofiness of Flea, in which a pipsqueak hip-hopper takes on a Goliath-like Nazi on the show So You Think You Can Fight, it didn’t matter—show hostess/referee Claire Broderick’s astonishingly hot, gorgeous operatic vocals were a technical knockout.
Most moving of the pieces was Henry and Johanna, a veritable literary “short short” about an overweight woman who decides to kill herself and leave her daughter to be raised by the gay ex-boyfriend she never got over. Heavy stuff—and the always superior acting of Amber Scott nails it. More, please.
Other clever pieces such as Twisted Love (involving an actual game of Twister), Fortune (where a couple breaks up using fortune-cookie ticker tapes as dialogue) and Breakfast With Warhol (in which a man and woman suddenly realize we, the audience, are watching their morning routine) adequately fulfill producer Emily Brauer Rogers’ unconventional criteria. But it’s the final piece, Darktime in Skipland, that’s the jaw-droppingly best. All I can say is: eight neighbors, in the dark, flashlights on faces, a crank phone call, boys on walkie talkies, a couple having sex, a yapping dog and a gun. You’ll just have to buy a ticket to find out what eventually unfurls in this cacophony of brilliance.
Beyond Convention at the Hunger Artists Theatre, 699-A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 680-6803; www.hungerartists.com. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. $15.