Best of PlayGround 22 a winner. . . again at Potrero Theatre

(L-R) Chris Morrell, Melissa Ortiz* and Ed Berkeley in ANNA CONSIDERS A COCKTAIL by Ruben Grijalva, directed by Margo Hall, part of Best of PlayGround 22, May 10-27, 2018 at Potrero Stage. Photo: Mellophoto.com.

BEST OF PLAYGROUND 22: PLAYGROUND’S TWENTY-SECOND ANNUAL TEN-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL. Potrero Stage, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco, CA. 415-992-6677 or www.playground-sf/bestof. May 10-June 17, 2018.

Best of PlayGround 22 a winner. . . again at Potrero Theatre. Rating: ★★★★☆

Playgrounds latest display of the best 10 minute plays submitted to their Monday night sessions is a very impressive.  This year only six plays have been selected and each displays qualities suggesting the authors are ready to produce a full play.  Descriptive adjectives include promising, clever, thoughtful, universal and humorous.

First up is Spiskammers by Rob Dario and directed by Jim Kleinmann earns the thoughtful adjective with the suggestions that meditation can be a mean to cope with vicissitudes of daily life. The dialog is sparse. The play unfolds with the “Procession of the Sardar” played by hidden speakers.The play involves a married couple (Floriana Alessandria, David Stein) being shown an expensive apartment by a realtor (Ed Berkeley) who rattles off the amenities, the desirable location and a view.  When the wife asks about closets (spiskammers), she goes off stage with the realtor.  Without a word being said the husband casually strips down to his briefs, sits cross-legged on the floor and meditates. She returns alone, finds her husband in yoga position and joins him. What is the realtor to do? Blackout.

Next up is the beautifully choreographed Factory Girls by Erin Marie Panttaja, directed by Jenny McAllister with music by Philip Glass. It is the perfect vehicle to reemphasize/support the #MeToo movement.  The three “girls” ( Melissa Ortiz, JennyAn Nelson, Florianna Alessandria) enter the bare stage creating their assembly line working area with stylized movements depicting punching a time clock and working with fabric on a production line. Their nemesis and potential sexual harasser is the Supervisor (David Stein). Each female worker adroitly and firmly rejects the advances. There are only about a dozen spoken words by the Supervisor who retreats to his desk loudly and ominously stamping documents.

In Anna Considers a Cocktail by Ruben Grijalva directed by Margo Hall there is a switch from minimalist dialog to long exchanges (actually monologs) by Anna (Melissa Ortiz) with Waiter (Ed Berkeley) who has served her a decorative tropical alcoholic drink complete with the ubiquitous miniature umbrella.  She is departing on a new life (maybe) because she “I know where I’ve been. I know where I’m at and I know where I’m going.” While it is Ortiz’s time to shine Ed Berkeley beautifully underplays the waiter role and Chris Morrell displays complete frustration as Anna’s former lovers. “With the time of possibility collapsing, there are only happy beginnings.”

After intermission “Living Conditions” by Lauren Gorski is the most complicated to stage but the astute direction by Becca Wolff, with the help of the properties artisan (Andy Faulkner) turns this mystical attempt to remove the paranormal from a home is humorously macabre. It is even more so when Claire (JennyAn Nelson) hires a fake physic (Chris Morrell) to do the job. Ed Berkeley who was assigned supporting roles in the previous plays gets his turn to display physicality imbued with humor.

Laughs are left behind in the bittersweet riff on the ecological impact of fracking in rural areas in particular and on the environment in general in Sh*t Farming for Fun and Profit by Alanna McFall directed  by Katja Rivera. There are no new insights into the problem of damage vs benefits by the energy producing companies.  The sisters (Floriana Alessandria, Melissa Ortiz) fairly discuss the dilemma both wanting to preserve the rural environment for their children. When the young daughter Lori (JennyAn Nelson) comes out to share the pink sunset she is reminded that the pink sunset is due to particulate matter in the atmosphere. Sadly Laura innocently says, “When I grow up I want it to be red.”

L-R) Chris Morrell and Melissa Ortiz* in A GIANT STORY by Nic Sommerfeld, directed by Soren Oliver, part of Best of PlayGround 22, May 10-27, 2018. Photo: Mellophoto.com.

Playground has elected to leave us laughing to wrap up the evening. Nic Sommerfeld sets his play in Ireland where the natives are known to tell tall tales. His tall tale is A Giant Story directed by Soren Oliver giving his protagonist (if you can call her that) Lori a whopper to tell. Melissa Ortiz as Lori almost makes the story believable but her husband Danny (David Stein) has doubts and questions. . . as you should too. If your wife came home a 3 A.M. and said she was accosted by Elves and a Giant there are reasons to doubt.  He states Elves have disappeared from the old sod and there are no giants. Lori insists it was not one of those big giants but rather a small giant. Author Sommerfeld inserts a single line, that you will not read here, to give Lori her comeuppance.

Running time including the intermission is about 80 minutes.

CREATIVE CREW: Lighting Designer, Brittany Mellerson;  Sound Designer, James Goode; Costume Designer, Jess McGovern; Properties Artisan, Andy Falkner; Scenic Designer, Mikiko Uesugi; Technical Director, David Lynch; Stage Manager, Mercedes McLean; Scenic Painters, Bert van Aalsburg & Ruth Teitelbaum

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com

(L-R) Chris Morrell, Melissa Ortiz* and Ed Berkeley in ANNA CONSIDERS A COCKTAIL by Ruben Grijalva, directed by Margo Hall, part of Best of PlayGround 22, May 10-27, 2018 at Potrero Stage. Photo: Mellophoto.com.

L-R) Chris Morrell and Melissa Ortiz* in A GIANT STORY by Nic Sommerfeld, directed by Soren Oliver, part of Best of PlayGround 22, May 10-27, 2018. Photo: Mellophoto.com.