THE BASICS: BUA TAKES 10: STONEWALL EDITION, a collection of twelve one-act plays plus a monologue, presented by Buffalo United Artists, directed by Jessica K. Rasp, runs one more weekend through June 30, on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 7 at the Alleyway Cabaret, 672 Main Street (886-9239) www.buffalounitedartists.org. Runtime: 1 hour-45 minutes with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Not unlike BUFFALO QUICKIES (the annual showcase of short plays at the Alleyway Theatre) BUA TAKES 10 was, from 2012 to 2014, another Buffalo festival of short plays, but with LGBTQ themes. It was founded by playwright Donna Hoke which, back then, she co-curated with Matt Crehan Higgins.
Fast forward to this June, specifically June 28 which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Simply “Stonewall” as it’s now called, marks the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement. Hoke suggested to BUA Artistic Director Javier Bustillos that the time was right to resurrect the BUA TAKES 10 with a special Stonewall Edition. With a vision of how the evening should proceed, chronologically, she curated the show solo, ultimately selecting 12 works for two or three actors and, with permission, split a longer monologue by “Coleman” into sections to act as entr’acte entertainment between the 12 short plays, each of them, including the monologue, illustrating an aspect of LGBTQ lifestyle, persecution, and triumph.
The short plays span a century, starting in 1919 and ending in 2018.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: This Stonewall Edition stars Timothy Patrick Finnegan as the monologist, Virginia K. Rasp who did double duty as director/actor, Tim Goehrig who was recently so marvelous in (and Artie nominated for) PARADE, Melissa Leventhal who was equally impressive and Artie nominated for her MOTHER JONES IN HEAVEN AND HELL as well as the Artie winning ensemble for 1776, A. Peter Snodgrass who was so impressive in Donna Hoke’s SONS AND LOVERS (also on the smaller Cabaret stage), Andrew Zuccari, who brings his dry wit annually to BUFFALO QUICKIES, and two rising stars Matthew Rittler (whom I had seen at Torn Space) and Adam Kluge, who was new to me. What a whole lotta talent goin’ on.
Some things I didn’t expect: First off, how good the evening was. Sometimes shorter run productions in these “black box” small theater situations aren’t as well-rehearsed as you’d like, or lines get forgotten, maybe scene and costume changes take as long as the scene itself, SFX are hokey or mis-cued. And, as a theater critic, one is advised to rise above these petty annoyances. Well, there was no need for that here. This crew was superb. It was so damn nice to just relax, put myself in the hands of these professionals (including Carly Weiser, Stage Manager/Production Coordinator), and enjoy the show.
Another thing I didn’t expect: The topics are serious, but several of the plays are funny, or at least had some pretty funny lines, and the audience when I went on Sunday was sympatico and we all had some good laughs.
And yet another thing I should have expected was the entr’acte musical selections. BUA productions always have the best music. My biggest disappointment was that they faded to silence too soon, sometimes seconds after I “got the joke” and would have liked to hear more.
The plays focused on various topics, including efforts to seek out and remove gays from the military and other government posts, both gay and lesbian couples maintaining a “respectable” cover story, “lavender” and “white” marriage, the Stonewall riots themselves, and three very touching plays starring Kluge, Rittler, and Snodgrass about simple, human, more or less everyday tensions between friends and lovers.
Playwright Donna Hoke’s offering is called BIRTH OF AN ICON which is an excerpt from her longer play ON THE ROOF. If you’re looking to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall this coming weekend (June 28 is the actual date), she suggests, and I heartily concur, a tripleheader of LGBTQ-themed theater. Here’s how: Thursday or Friday go see THE SEAT NEXT TO THE KING at New Phoenix Theatre (review here) both performances at 8 p.m., Thursday is “pay what you can” at the New Phoenix).
Friday or Saturday go see ON THE ROOF, presented by Post-Industrial Productions (PIP), at Trinity Episcopal Church, Christ Chapel, 371 Delaware Avenue (both performances at 7:30 p.m.) with $15 tickets at the door to benefit both PIP and Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York.
And, of course, Friday, Saturday or Sunday go see BUA TAKES 10: STONEWALL EDITION, Buffalo United Artists at the Alleyway Complex, details above.
Photos courtesy Buffalo United Artists
*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!