Under World by Josh Ben Friedman is a one-act play in which a humble luxury auto dispatch clerk comes face to face with his idol, the spoiled star of a popular TV cop drama, all thanks to the highly questionable intentions of one highly questionable drug dealer.
As he demonstrated with his full-length Barstool Words last summer, Friedman is a playwright to be watched. His command of language is dazzling, wielding the truth like a scalpel as he explosively dissects human nature, circa 2000. If Under World is not as clear in its intent as Barstool Words, that may only be because Friedman had more that he wanted to say and couldn't fit it all in in its current one-act state. It often felt as if this production were an edited version of a longer play, with key transitional scenes missing. Stephen Golux's direction, however, was impeccable, and he was blessed with a cast of pros (Justin Reinsilber, Corey Patrick, and especially Kevin Daniels) who were as comfortable with Friedman's language as if they had been born speaking it. What a ride!
Edith L. Freni's This Is It is a short play that takes place on a very different kind of ride, bringing a devilish barker, his frustrated carny girlfriend, and a lonely fairgoer together to figure out whether or not up really is a far more interesting ride than down. Freni's command of language is neither as concise or penetrating as Friedman's, but she shows a flair for dark humor and a refreshing willingness to take intelligent risks with her writing. And as directed by Daniel DeRaey, "This Is It" had moments of chilling hilarity, particularly as performed by Dustin Tucker, Aidan Sullivan, and Russell Soder, all of whom gave energetic, sharp twists to their characters.
Production values were minimal, but what was there worked to support the actors and the texts, which is exactly what should be in productions such as this. The sound design in particular established places, moods and characters in ways that real scenery and lighting would have been hard-pressed to top.
These two plays are part of a one-act play festival called "Harvest," the collaborative effort of three companies: New Chaos, Feed the Herd Theatre Company, and fugue theatre. Performed over two nights, the work overall ranges from good to excellent, with superb performances from every actor involved. And they serve cookies and beer to their audiences between set ups! Go, eat, drink, enjoy.
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita