REVIEW: Life and death in 10 minutes: the plays are the things

Ten minutes is a really short amount of time, but long enough to tell a compelling story without a minute to spare.

That’s what happened Feb. 18 in the Arena Theater at Fannin Hall when Richland’s Drama Dept. presented its first spring production, “Richland Writes: A Festival of 10-Minute Plays.” The festival featured eight 10-minute plays by Richland students who had been working on them for the last year.

This was the first time this type of festival has been done at Richland. It was the brainchild of Drama Chair Andy Long, who thought of the idea after some of his students inquired about the process of playwriting. Long has written one play and two musicals, both performed at Richland by drama students. So, he challenged them to write some plays last year for a competition. The following eight were chosen from all that were submitted to be performed at the festival.

While topics range from fantasy to controversy, the audience definitely had something to talk about on the way home

In Act 1, the festival opened with an amazing fantasy, “My Lovely Muse,” written by Brian Miranda and directed by Eric Obregon. Carter Brown (as Christopher) did well in demonstrating some pretty intense feelings as a young writer who struggles with writing a play, hoping to please his father and seeking inspiration from an imaginary muse, played by Camila Fonseca. Good rapport between Brown and Fonseca helped this fantasy come alive as he tempted her with doughnuts and her favorite French Vanilla coffee.

Following “My Lovely Muse” came the true story of the problems child molestation causes in “The Last Petal” by Cori Clark, directed by Mieko Hicks. The sad story was that of Danae, played by Amanda Rodriguez, as she struggles with some anxieties in trying to be normal as an adult. Supporting actors were: De Jon Perryman, Hunter Kennedy, Daisy Santillan, Sheldon Vielma, Jabin Lewis, Charles Shu and Gloria Gergen.

Same sex marriage was next in “Angel Down” by Marcelino Vasquez, directed by Raven Lanuza-Brown. Sheldon Vielma played Ben, a young man whose husband, Max, was killed in a shopping mall shooting. One particularly touching scene was the one where Max, when alive, kneels down and proposes to Ben. Vielma demonstrated some great acting skills in one major emotional scene when Ben tries to come to terms with Max’s death. Carter Brown played Max, the deceased husband; the chorus – De Jon Perryman, Rachel Haigh and Hunter Kennedy.

The audience had to really stretch their imagination in the next lyrical fantasy, “Comes the Rain” by Mieko Hicks, directed by Jabin Lewis. A mother (Gloria Gergen) relates the story of The Arc to a child (Briana Guzman) as a Cloaked Man, played by Thomas Turnbow, wants to take shelter at a stable. He’s confronted by an Old Man (Brian Miranda), as they discuss the end of the world, which the Old Man believes is coming.

After a brief intermission, Act 2 began with a drama provoking illegal immigration and human trafficking in “A Hopeless Dream“ by Eric Obregon, directed by Carlos Hernandez. Mieko Hicks was outstanding as the nasty La Jefa in showing what could happen to young people when caught entering the country illegally. The rest of the cast helped to make the scenes more realistic: Amanda Rodriguez, Camila Fonseca, Jordan Bradford, Thomas Turnbow and De Jon Perryman.

Moving from illegals to the ultimate evil, “The Devils Are Here” by Brian Miranda, showed the most audience reaction. Directed by Eric Obregon, it was extremely entertaining and just plain bizarre. Cori Clark, dressed in a bright red dress, hose and high heels, was stunning as the foul-mouthed Lucifer. Jabin Lewis played the dumbfounded Damien, just an ordinary guy who ended up in hell wondering why he’s there. He whines, “I’m a good person. I don’t deserve to be in hell. I’m not a crook,” as Clark just yawns while the audience cracks up laughing. Briana Guzman played Banshee, a bored clerk who just follows orders.

After this hellish experience came “Catharsis” by Jeremy Gaydosh, directed by Kayla Pena. Carter Brown plays Tom, a young man bogged down with a drinking problem over a crime he once committed. His friend Bob, played by Eric Obregon, tries to help him overcome his guilt over beating up a guy named Stan within an inch of his life. No one ever found out who did it. Now Tom has a daughter and she won’t speak to him because of the crime. Brown and Obregon had great rapport as buddies sitting over a table discussing the issue. The play had a happy ending; his daughter called Tom back.

The festival ended with a light comedy, “Four Stalls,” as four young women enter a school restroom and clash: Cori Clark, Gloria Gergen, Chandler Austin and Jordan Bradford. One of them is a boy, but transforms into a girl by dressing as one in the restroom. The others have their own reasons for being there. This play was probably the one the ladies in the audience will remember every time they use a restroom. The end result said it all: “We’re all equally #@$#@% up.” It was hard to hear what some of them were saying.