If you’ve read this blog very much, then you know that I love new work. New plays are fun to watch develop and Cincinnati LAB Theatre (helmed by Elizabeth A. Harris, Jared D. Doren, and Bob Allen) has facilitated the development of three 20 minute plays this year.
Last year, they helped to develop BUCKEYE, a new play by Harris (and featuring Allen along with Leah Strasser). That play recently had a reading at Actor’s Studio of Louisville, which is something they are proud of. And they should be.
The idea of this group is that they will help incubate new plays, allow people to hone their craft in a safe, supportive environment, and allow or collaboration between writers, directors, actors, and other theatre professionals. It’s brilliant really.
And the results are pretty great. This plays all feature themes of identity and are centered around the Supreme Court decision about gay marriage. Harris tells the story of two lesbians who are in very different places regarding their identity. Strasser, who is new to writing (she’s one of our cities most talented actresses) used real quotes and some actual verbatim diatribes to indict those who oppose the court decision while pointing out that the hashtag #lovewins is often accompanied by anger, name calling, and “hate.” And Brian Griffin writes a rich character study of two men several years after this year’s landmark verdict.
Directors Ben Ranaan, Doren, and Allen all keep the action moving in interesting ways and the actors – who were often integral to the development of their own characters and sometimes even their own dialogue – demonstrate their passion for this project with their performances.
Alexa Glaser and Carey Parsons have nice chemistry together in “Now What? by Harris; Glaser’s character at one point says “Being me is the only bad thing I’ve ever done.” That line will haunt me for a few days and the way these characters differ made for some interesting discussion in the post-show talk back.
I always enjoy the work of the engaging Tracy Schoster; her professional presence and immense experience command the stage but here she shows sides we haven’t seen before. Rachel Mock and Adam Jones, who share the stage with her, keep up nicely and you get a sense of Doren’s ability to instill confidence in his actors. Strasser’s #lovewins focuses less on narrative and more on irony.
Finally, the multi-dimensional Carter Bratton teams with Jeffrey K. Miller for “The Gay Divorce,” a piece that relies heavily on character, emotion, and acting. I was riveted by the awkwardness of these two very real people and the way they made “normal” interesting.
I can’t imagine a better way for a theatre lover to spend their Saturday night than to head to Falcon Theatre (which has hosted this group two years in a row) and participate in this theatrical LAB. Be sure to stay and participate in the talk back.
You won’t regret it.