THE BASICS: THE END: AMEN, written by Alleyway Playwrights Circle members Mark Lloyd, Bella Poynton, j. Snodgrass and Winifred Storms, directed by Bob Van Valin, starring Hugh Davis, Leyla Gentil, Helene Macaulay, Vincenzo McNeill, Colleen Pine, Matthew Rittler, Peter Snodgrass, and Rick Vogt continues through March 8, Friday and Saturday at 8, Sunday at 4 at the Alleyway Cabaret, enter the complex at 672 Main Street (852-2600). www.alleyway.com Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Four local playwrights have each written a three-character one-act, all related by the topic of the apocalypse (also known as “Armageddon,” “Judgement Day,” or “the end of the world”) which is supposed to happen on March 21st or 3-21. In order presented, ONE DAY AT A TIME by Winifred Storms lets us drop in at the end of an AA meeting where the church basement is about to be set up by “Jade” to sell kits to help people get into heaven in the coming days.
In THREE-TWO-ONE by j. Snodgrass two young men are toiling in a church basement searching to find relevant biblical texts with citations of “Chapter 3, Verse 21” (remember March 21st or 3-21?) for example REVELATION 3:21 “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne….” We become aware that “Betty” who is romantically inclined towards “Roland” is not going to overcome the fact that he is really interested in “Howie.”
In DARKNESS by Mark C. Lloyd we meet three people trying to stay alive while outside, zombie-like characters, each burned in a distinct way by lightning, seem intent on killing them.
In THE TOUR GUIDE by Bella Poynton, “Nina,” who is studying her notes in order to be a church tour guide, seems to be ignoring signs of her impending doom when she is visited by an older couple named “Gabrielle” and “Michael” who seem to know all about her. Could they actually be the Archangels Gabriel and Michael come to offer her salvation? And why “Nina?” Well, you’ll have to attend the play to find out.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: The plays are well-directed by Bob Van Valin with excellent fight choreography by Stefanie Warnick (whose choreography is coincidentally on stage currently at the other end of the Alleyway Complex in SCOTCH AND MADNESS) and solid stage management by Bekki Sliwa. The actors (see cast list above) were also solid, each and every one, and you could tell that they took this project seriously.
It’s all part of The Alleyway Theatre’s tradition of giving new plays a solid sendoff, with all theatrical elements in place – costumes, lighting, sound, music, props, etc. So, even though these are “just” one-acts they are very solid productions. Speaking of one-acts, the Alleyway Playwrights Circle formally formed in 2019 to create offerings for the annual BUFFALO QUICKIES, which this year will be the 29th Annual Celebration of One-Act Plays on stage March 26 through April 18, 2020.
I personally liked the last play, THE TOUR GUIDE by Bella Poynton, the best because it felt the most like a complete plot as opposed to a skit. DARKNESS felt more like just a set-up or situation. I didn’t sense any plot and so the story didn’t grab me as much. It was the same with THREE-TWO-ONE which used up a lot of time having people flirt with one another but didn’t really plow any new ground. It reminded of the old one-liner which has a woman lamenting that “every time I meet a good looking trim well-dressed man who knows his way around the kitchen and the dance floor, he already has a boyfriend.”
ONE DAY AT A TIME was my second favorite for the clever juxtaposition of Alcoholics Anonymous with Armageddon. For example, abstaining from drinking “one day at a time” means to many not getting overwhelmed by the future. But what if there isn’t a future?
It was the acting, though, that made ONE DAY AT A TIME a standout, as with THE TOUR GUIDE, featuring the actor Hugh Davis recently so outstanding over at the Paul Robeson Theatre in the African-American Cultural Center in two plays by August Wilson: KING HEDLEY II and TWO TRAINS RUNNING (where Davis appeared with another PRT star, also on stage here at the Alleyway Cabaret, Vincenzo L. McNeill, who was so compelling as “Wolf” in TWO TRAINS RUNNING). You may not have seen either of these smooth operators on stage before, so don’t miss your final three chances to see them this weekend at the Alleyway.
I’d give Poynton’s and Storms’ plays Four Buffalos and Snodgrass and Lloyd’s plays each Two Buffalos, for an average of Three Buffalos for the entire evening.
UP NEXT: BUFFALO QUICKIES, the 29th annual celebration of One-Act (new) plays, suitable for adult audiences, which runs March 26 through April 18, 2020 at The Alleyway Theater.
*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!