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Buffalo Quickies 2013

THE BASICS: This is the 22nd incarnation of the Alleyway Theatre‘s signature short works program, saved from the guillotine in the 11th hour by a few exceptionally generous donors. This year’s edition of seven short plays features both WNY playwrights and out-of-town talents. It’s been directed by the Alleyway’s Joyce Stilson, who is also a member of the company. All four actors play multiple roles. With its single ten minute intermission, the show runs approximately 90 minutes.
THE PLAYS AND THE PLAYERS: The seven offerings are briskly paced, and wide-ranging. 
The lead-off piece, FACE TIME, by Donna Hoke, is a short and cheeky look at social media, with two old friends reviewing recent events as they wait in a department store service line. Ms Stilson and Bethany Sparacio play the matrons rather broadly, and get a fair number of laughs. 
Next comes THE POE-STER, by Judy Klass. It’s the evening’s cleverest piece of writing, a careful and loving parody of Poe’s “The Raven”. The verses are declaimed by Ms Sparacio, playing a college girl who’s lost her one true (lesbian) love. Caveats: the delivery is too strident by half, and a number of wonderful rhymes get short shrift through de-emphasis. 
FULL CIRCLE, by DonnaMarie Vaughan, provides the evening with its dramatic core. It’s a series of monologues delivered at a gravesite by a young man whose wife was the victim of a tragic auto accident. He speaks to her as if she were still alive. We share his initial grief, and, as the months roll by, his subsequent troubled quest for retribution. There are some spooky similarities to the Corasanti case. Playwright Vaughan gains our interest quickly, and things get quite gripping near the close. Darryl Hart gives this piece his all; my kudos for this fine, sensitive, nuanced performance. Despite its considerable merits, CIRCLE does suffer a little from a limp “message” ending. 
The first “act” closes with PET ENVY by Camilla Maxwell. In this one, Ms Stilson and Sparacio play adolescent girls who get unusual pets. Tomboy Daniella gets a blood-red corn snake that grows to monstrous size; the girly Julianna is stuck with a fish she names Ralph. Both performances are outsized, and rake in the laughs. I certainly preferred Stilson’s angry adolescent to Sparacio’s lisping ninny. 
After the intermission, we get George J. Bryjak’s HEART AND SOUL, a preachy little number about the zombification of America, made palatable chiefly by Ms Stilson as a chipper devil’s advocate. Roger VanDette makes his first appearance here, as the chagrinned husband whose life has become empty. The evening concludes with back to back pieces by Mark Harvey Levine. 
CHARMING is a cute, well-crafted sketch about luckless daters, one of whom has just decided to stop being gay. Thank you, Mr Hart, for not going over the top on this! 
MISFORTUNE is a zany, absurdist concoction, involving a couple having dinner at a Chinese restaurant. They ultimately get a whole series of meal-ending fortune cookies. Hers are of the usual, philosophical type; his, well, I won’t spoil the fun! Everyone takes part in MISFORTUNE, and it ends the evening a high note. The playlets use simple costumes and just a few props and set pieces. The overall look is “bare stage”, and that’s perfectly fine.
While I have quibbles enough to downgrade my rating a bit, I suspect that the opening night crowd, if they could have voted, would have awarded these Quickies an additional Buffalo!

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO:  This means trouble.   A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both.  Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS:  Passable, but no great shakes.  Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic.  Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS:  I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater.  If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS:  Both the production and the play are of high caliber.  If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS:  Truly superb–a rare rating.  Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas
that really touch the heart.
  Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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