Directors Festival offers up comedy, horror and more

A fresh take on one acts: Night A and B of the 2017 annual AWT director’s festival reviewed

The eighteenth annual Directors Festival is the product of senior theatre students taking their first crack at directing a one act play. Each of the six plays featured in the festival had unique ideas and offered a fresh take on one act plays. The genres of each play varied from comedy to thriller to horror to drama. The festival took place from April 10 to 15 in the Actor’s Workshop Theatre.

The Way of All Fish

The Way of All Fish was directed by Erik Stephany and was a seemingly simple plot about a woman and her secretary. The play stars Hannah Allen as Ms. Asquith a wealthy business woman and Selina Tobin as Ms. Riverton her secretary. The first half of this play dragged on with exposition and a boring back and forth between the characters, but the second half was so incredibly well done. The plot took an unexpected twist that created both a strong sense of tension and purposeful comedy. The overall direction by Stephany was strong and well constructed. The performance by Allen was strong, consistent and funny and the performance by Tobin was very diverse, suspenseful and relatable. A run of this play will be at the Rickrack in the Wack Festival in Chilliwack from May 3 to 7, tickets are $10 each.

Caught In the Act

Funny and surprising, Kayla Alfred directs Caught In the Act, a play inside of a play. The play is about an uncertain playwright who keeps changing the motivations, dialogue and pretty much everything about the two characters in his script. Starring Peter Navratil as Don and Jessica Brundritt as Annie, the pair took on a variety of names and personality traits throughout the 35-minute run time. The play becomes really meta when the characters start to have their own conscience thought and resent the writer for his indecisiveness. Both Navratil and Brundritt give convincing and deep performances that make the play so enticing. The direction by Alfred is simple but well thought out, making this complex story easy to follow but impossible to miss.

A Bench on the Edge

Directed by Stephanie Morrison, A Bench on the Edge is a play about a physical manifestation about an existential ideal. Starring Jeff Daniels as Number Two and Paige Caswell as Number One, this play follows two character on the literal edge of the abyss. The simple set includes a bench and a tether attached to Number One’s back. The direction by Morrison in combination with the minimalist set design worked well to create a world that takes place in the psyche of our own mind. The biggest problem in the play is the writing, it lacks a real stance on anything which gives it a muddy and unclear message. The biggest question we are left with was not what is the abyss like, but rather is this play pro-suicide? However, the spectacular performances from Daniels and Caswell make up for the lacking and uncertain plot.

Dead Boy

A Ouija board experience gone wrong, Dead Boy was directed by Martina Anne Doucet. This play follows three naïve teenagers Jennelle Young as Lara, Emily Thibert as Devon, and Berlin Jr. Msiska as Ben. This drama-horror finds the three hoping to talk to a boy that supposedly was found dead in Ben’s grandmothers house. The house was a gift to his grandmother from one of her customers. Ben tells them that a boy was found dead in the house before she moved in. Although Lara and Devon are skeptical of this story, communication from the other side or perhaps too much alcohol has them wondering. The staging and set in this production are used well and the overall direction by Doucet was good. However, a combination of the performances and writing left this horror play feeling a little cliché. The play falls into the tropes of the genre and makes it feel uninteresting. This play premiered on Night B of the festival.

The Most Massive Woman Wins

Directed by Morgan Benedict, The Most Massive Woman Wins is a timeless piece that expresses the struggles of body image. Starring Shannon Cooper, Elizabeth King, Kelsey Launier and Brittney Martens as the four women awaiting surgery in a liposuction clinic. The play offers a meaningful commentary on the way society views beauty and the way we judge our own worth based on appearances. The story is told in an unconventional way through long monologues, nursery rhymes and flashbacks. All four women in the cast brought an interesting element and style to the play, making it feel like a personal experience. The direction by Benedict was quite clever, taking a very simple set and transporting us to various locations. The play’s staging moved the audience from the playground to the waiting room to the bathroom floor seamlessly. This play was not only very only well done but offered great substance and perspective to the audience. This play premiered on Night B of the festival. A run of this play will be at the Rickrack in the Wack Festival in Chilliwack from May 3 to 7, tickets are $10 each.

In On It

From Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, this complex narrative follows three different storylines that are weaved together by director Anna Dokshina. This production features Mariana Makulkina and Ashley Hiibner who act out 11 different characters between the two of them. The play follows three unique storylines. The first is of two people trying to make a play, the second is a love story and then a tragedy of a couple calling the quits on their relationship with a child stuck in the middle and the third follows a middle-aged man who gets in a car accident. This play asks for a smart audience who can pay attention to detail and deals with themes of suicide, love and the meaning of life. Dokshina does a great job of directing this play, aiding the audience in figuring who’s who and what’s what. Both Makulkina and Hiibner do a wonderful job of making every character distinguishable and giving them real depth. Although it was a joy to watch, it was confusing at times to tell if these stories were intertwined or if it even matters. This play premiered on Night B of the festival.