Though I have yet to see any of the New Play Project's religious plays (promising more Mormon-oriented content), last night's recent batch of short plays, a 90 minute series called "Long Ago and Far Away" was no disappointment. My $5 (well, $10 for my wife and me) bought a lot of entertainment. We walked away talking about other friends we'd like to take back to enjoy this amateur troupe's lively fare.
As one might expect from playwrights in or just out of college (and largely coming from an LDS background), many of the short plays were young relationship-oriented, making an interesting crosscut of themes (probably more serendipitous than planned). "The Fatted Dragon," a fantasy-comedy with lively dialogue (if too rushed to enjoy), was in the end a domestic farce with a serious theme about how a young couple can survive not just dragons but an oppressive feudal Lord and equally oppressive mothers-in-law. The poisoning and revival scene was worth the price of admission on its own.
But continuing the young love / domestic theme was the restrained and compelling Darkwatch, a tale of a young man standing watch (again, in a kind of medieval fantasy setting), on guard against some dreadful (but unnamed) monster as a maiden flirts with him. Effective transitions suggested the passage of time and the growing stakes of both the threat to their little world and the tension of their potential relationship. Only when the monster rampages do they dare to express their affection for a brief first (and potentially final) time. Good actors and directing made a very short play engage us start to finish.
"Deconstruction," though discussed in animated terms by its enthusiastic playwright afterwards, was a sentence without a predicate, unfortunately. A woman is leaving her husband, but her character remains flat while his was developed only by an engaging monologue (echoing the title) about first falling in love with her while tearing apart a barn in the hot sun. A good metaphor upon which to base a scene or a play, but the man was never sympathetic to us and the woman only a flat object for pity. (The playwright's other contribution for the night, "Repeating History," was far more interesting but fell outside of the domestic theme that even "Deconstruction" helped to build throughout the evening's set of plays.
Stealing the show was "Adam and Eve," which reminded me faintly of Mark Twain's dramatization of our first parents (moreso than Milton's). The back-and-forth as the recently expelled duo learn to like each other was sweetly written and portrayed, and it made me realize that Adam and Eve were in fact an arranged marriage, and like the arranged marriages that I have witnessed in India, the couple really don't court until after the wedding.
"Tree of Blood" was a able stab at horror with a family history theme, and "Cherry Pie" a tightly written two-player piece set in a fascist regime (1984-style) that had good tone but too little exposition for it to get traction for us in so short a time.
Kudos to them all. I play to spend more money at the New Play Project and heck, maybe even submit one of my own little dramas just to see what happens.