by Michael Booton
Local playwrights, directors, cast, and crew keep the magic of theatre alive in the Angels Theatre Company‘s First Flight Festival 2020—an annual festival which consists of short plays written, directed, performed and produced all by Lincoln community members. The festival has previously shown works that have gone on to see publications, and further productions, and based off Thursday night’s performances, the plays produced this year should be no different!
Thirteen-year local theatre veteran Elbert Traylor gave us a script that offers several hilarious twists in his short play, Predators, directed by Charisa Ramsey. Lincoln actor Zoe Tien drew in the audience from the beginning of Act I with her dead-pan performance of the character Lauryn. Tien’s quick deliveries, combined with the jaw-dropping turns the script takes, drew audible gasps and laughter from the crowd Thursday evening in the opening short ten minute play.
Another standout includes Stephen Enersen’s The Observer, directed by Mark Mesarch. Enersen has written almost a dozen plays produced in First Flight Festivals. One of his plays was published by Dramatic Publishing and produced at the Lincoln Community Playhouse. The Observer, which was performed last evening, has an animated talking bush in its cast (voiced by actor LauraLee Woodruff) made possible after veteran actor and festival director (Word Play by Paul Burrow) Walter J McDowell III’s character David eats a special brownie.
A bonus about these Festivals, which have been going on since 2015, is that if one production is not your cup of tea, others are certain to grab your attention, to put you in another world, and to leave you thinking about the show long after the bittersweet, poetic, abridged full-length play, Dove by Brigid Amos, from the second act of the festival is over.
A staged reading of Dove was directed by Jillian Carter. Brigid Amos’s previous works have been produced or read by Angels Theatre Company, 5th Wall Productions, The Secret Theatre, CenterPieces Reading Series, The Barn Players and others.
In an effort to save the synopsis from people who do not want to hear it, one might skip the next two paragraphs. However, attempts have been made to refrain from spoilers.
Dove is a tragic story that functions to comfort those who have experienced loss. In the theatre community, one can easily sense a feeling of loss with the dimming of theatre lights everywhere. However, one could sense an eagerness last evening. A feeling of theatrical survival from several standout productions and, particularly, certain performances, including ones in Dove.
The haunting cry from local actor Constance Howard as Effie in Dove is the moment that kept waking up this reviewer throughout last night, wondering the same question as Effie: “Who is Dove?” Dove, played by the breath-of-fresh-air, Jules Howard, gives us a playful, happy, comfortable character who makes the audience feel at ease during a play otherwise filled with a tragically heavy topic. The production left this reviewer feeling a sense of hope for both parents who have lost children, as well as for the theatre community who have felt a loss. Perhaps Dove is our theatre community that has flown back if only for one weekend, letting us know things will be okay.
Finally, local playwright Kathy Disney’s first submission to the festival with her play Breakfast Tray, with Sarah Halsted’s direction and with the skilled acting chops of Charisa Ramsey and Gretchen Foley, had this reviewer completely forgetting he was wearing a mask, stole his heart, and left him wanting to see their production (and others) of Breakfast Tray again and again. The writing is relevant and witty, the direction kept the pace and beats going, and the acting delivered every emotion in a short play for which one could ask. Breakfast Tray should be published, and high school forensic teams should eat it up.
Or go decide for yourself before these doves fly away.
If you go: Remaining performances of First Flight Festival 2020 are July 17 and 18 at 7:30pm, with a matinees July 19 at 2:00pm. The Lied Center’s Johnny Carson Theater is located at 11th and Q Streets in Lincoln. Tickets are available online and by phone (402-472-4747). Audience members must wear face masks and be symptom-free. Seating is socially distanced.
Michael Booton has a degree in English and a minor in LGBTQ Sexuality Studies from UNL. Michael is also a local actor and singer around the Lincoln, Nebraska area. He has been in Mame, The Producers, and Sweet Charity at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, The Addams Family, Avenue Q (two productions), The Spidey Project, and Pageant the Musical at the TADA Theatre, as well as in Safe Space in First Flight Festival 2016.
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