Vital Theatre Company recently capped their season with Vital Signs, an eight-week-long festival of new works that showcased both established and emerging playwrights, directors, actors, and designers. Ambitious in scope, at the very least it was admirable for the stage management, if not the genuine (if sometimes raw) quality of the writing and directing and the superlative acting throughout.
In Dorothy Fortenberry's The Theory of Everything, two teenagers find themselves and each other in a series of endlessly brief scenes that seemed (like most of the pieces in the evening) as if they were part of a longer, as-yet-to be-developed work. Directed by Nicole Ruskin with a quick, TV style pacing, Melissa Powell and Joey Roesel excelled as the two protagonists.
Mark Lowenstern's A Doctor's Visit benefited from smart writing and direction (Jason King Jones), a timely topic, and mesmerizing performances from Tom Biglin and Barry Phillips, while Ryan Hill's The Ferry, delightfully performed by Adam Groves and Dawn Scanlan, may have been a tad to sitcomish for its own good. (Directed by Karen Sommers.)
The best piece of the evening was Ty Adams's hilariously absurd Backward Man. Adams's script was beautifully conceived and, as directed by Emily Tetzlaff, performed with hilarious panache by Anna Ewing Bull and Tom Bozell, two expert comedians.
D. Lee Miller's When the Dodgers Left Brooklyn took a maudlin subject (a dying man conversing with his yet unborn granddaughter) and beat it to death, although Noel Farmer was touching throughout as he conversed with Carla Briscoe's no-nonsense voiceover as the granddaughter. (Directed by John Steber.)
Shawn Hirabayashi's A New Religion was an interesting piece, perhaps the most frustrating one of the evening in terms of a work with large issues shoe-horned into a brief 15-minute scene. Jim Bracchitta directed with a sensitive hand, with Reg Flowers and David Fraioli brilliantly mismatched in almost every way.
Gian Priano provided a lighting design that serviced the basic needs of each play, as did Michael Schloegl with his predominantly steel-blue-and-black set. No one took credit for the costumes, most of which looked like they came from the actors' own wardrobes but were appropriate nonetheless.
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita