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BUFFALO QUICKIES at Alleyway are like SNL skits. Some you’ll “get,” some you may not, but it’s all good.

THE BASICS: BUFFALO QUICKIES 2018, the 27th annual festival of one-act plays directed by Lee Becker, James Cichocki and Joyce Stilson, starring Christopher Standart, Andrew Zuccari, Tom Dreitlein, Jacquie Cherry, Bill Lovern, and Kate Olena runs through May 5, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (852-2600). www.alleyway.com

Runtime: Under two hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: I’m not going to wade into a discussion of “skits” versus “one-act plays” but I will say that if you like the more thought-provoking skits presented on Saturday Night Live, then you’ll probably enjoy BUFFALO QUICKIES.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Founded in 1980, the Alleyway Theatre has as its core mission the development and production of new plays and musicals. Putting on a show is tough enough, but to add the uncertainty of a new work? I’m reminded of the scene in “Jurassic Park” where actor Samuel L. Jackson’s character bemoans that “We have all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo….”

But still, bless them, they persist, and to assist them in the discovery of new talent and new work, the annual Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition was founded in 1989 by the Alleyway Theatre in memory of Canadian actor/playwright and friend of the Alleyway, Maxim Mazumdar (1953-1988).  One of this year’s plays was a finalist and one was the winner of the last competition. By the way, the deadline for entries this year is July 1, 2018.

The evening is book-ended with iconic Buffalo touchstones and begins with a sweet little play, SPIRIT OF BUFFALO by Donna Hoke, in which a local man asks for a favor from a fellow motorist but ends up giving back much more in the form of a magic-realism welcome to Buffalo.

LAWN WARS by Matthew Boyle is an apt commentary on our polarized society, illuminating the seemingly intractable gaps between neighbors.

THE OFFER by Bella Poyton, dealing as it does on the nature of work, on your “life’s work,” and on making a difference in the world, would be a great launching pad for a moderated discussion, but here in this context it doesn’t get the room or time it needs to resonate before we’re off to another play. I think that THE OFFER could have a second life in non-theatrical settings such as schools or corporate seminars.

NOTICE by Peter Snoad was a bit too intellectual, “meta-theatrical,” or navel gazing for my taste, with its various riffs on the phrase “WRITERS NOTICE.” Your results may vary.

JOHNNY STORMCATCHER by Mike Randall, a little in the vein of THE OFFER, is about an experienced TV weathercaster and his intense relationship to his work.

After intermission, THE DEATH OF MELENDEZ, rather like NOTICE is also a bit too self-conscious and, frankly, I didn’t “get it.”

WHEN THE SKELETONS IN OUR CLOSETS CHOKE ON CANDY CORN has a clever twist that reminded me of Tom Sawyer getting Ben Rogers to whitewash the fence only here it’s Mike and Sam, one a lot more drunk than the other.

The last play of the evening, KICK UP YOUR HEELS AND SHOUT by J. Snodgrass, gives us a different look at another cherished Buffalo institution. KICK was this year’s Mazumdar New Play Competition winner, and it was easy to see why. It had good solid character development, three unique personalities, and a charming surprise at the end. I’ll never hear the Isley Brother’s song “Shout” the same way again. (And I like the “new” way much better!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the six hard-working actors who created a character on stage, then a few minutes later another, and then another: Jacquie Cherry, Tom Dreitlein, Bill Lovern, Kate Olena, Christopher Standart, and Andrew Zuccari all did fine jobs.

UP NEXT: That’s it for regular Alleyway Productions this season but remember that Buffalo United Artist’s annual “Summer Camp” production will be SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: THE MUSICAL.

More immediately, PHANTOM UNMASKED, a benefit concert for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and part of the fundraising efforts of the WNED/WBFO Artie Awards to benefit ECMC’s HIV/AIDS Immunodeficiency Services, ($20 donation minimum) featuring cast members from the touring company of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, “singing songs they’re totally not right for from their favorite 1990s Broadway musicals” is up one night only, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (852-2600).

*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!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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