From the downright silly to absurdist sophistry the virtual Short Attention Span Theatre may be just the thing to take your mind off COVID-19 and presidential politics for about an hour and a quarter through half a dozen plays that won’t capture any Tony Awards–even virtual ones.
First up is “Job Interview,” written by Howard Mesick and directed by Nic Carter, in which a psychotic Romanian neurologist played by wild-haired Brian Whitaker seeks work as a burger flipper for which the exasperated young woman interrogating him (Shannon Whitaker) declares him all but unemployable.
Rich Pauli’s “Act Now!” directed by Zachary Ryan and starring sad-sack Dan Guidice and imperious Hester Sachse involves a high-pressured sales pitch to a loser who is promised never to “experience a negative emotion” again. All he has to do is forfeit his eternal soul. To which he just shrugs as if to ask, “What do I need a soul for?” To my taste, “Act Now!” is a bit too depressing to spend even 10 minutes considering.
“A Room of My Own” by Michael Collins and directed by Jennifer Kafka Smith may strike a chord with Zoom-prone parents who find themselves spending way too much time alone with their young children due to COVID-driven homebound schooling. Vikki, Doris and Barb (Lucia Foster, Kelly Young and Amanda Fry) are sisters handling their stay-at-home lives in far different ways. Vikki, up to her ears in child-caring, has barricaded herself in a makeshift fort she constructed, while big sister Doris mostly swills wine and middle sis Barb has retreated to a tree-house.
“Epistemology” by Garfield artistic director Steven Arnold, who also directs this relentless play on words, pivots on a Zoom conversation between Nik Carter and Dylan Lyles punctuated by smart-alec dictionary-definition gag lines that sometimes deliver, sometimes bomb but mostly deliver a sly and subtle punch.
A black-and-white dark comedy, “The Tea Drinkers,” written and directed by Mark Sullivan, features a pair of stuffy teabag snobs, Marsha and Agatha, who are so suspicious of each other that they confess to developing an immunity to a poison they suspect the other will use on them. Connie Fallon and Francoise Sullivan display an amusingly arch mutual contempt, while Robbie Spray as the tea waiter, delivers the drop-dead punchline.
“Two Broody Hens,” by Rich Pauli and directed by Jennifer Kafka Smith, Zooms in on a clucking conversation between Jen Friedman as Eunice and Melissa McGlynn as Theodora trading cliched lines about crossing the road to get to the other side. A rooster, Randy, of course, played by John Mann, commands them to lay artisanal eggs and bow to his red-combed masculinity. But these hens will not be pecked so easily. Amusing, but not necessarily a barn-burner.
SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATRE 2020. The 15th annual festival of 10-minute plays streaming online for $10 (or a larger donation) through Sept. 27. Click on garfieldcenter.org to purchase home-viewing tickets. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre on High Street in Chestertown is closed due to the pandemic. 410-810-2060.
Steve Parks is a retired arts critic and editor now living in Easton.