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St. John's Short Plays Festival provides tough act to follow

A scene from “The Office,” by Sophia Merritt. Photo by Ashley Harding
A scene from “The Office,” by Sophia Merritt. Photo by Ashley Harding - contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The St. John’s Shorts wrapped up their fourth short plays festival on Sunday, after three consecutive weekends jam-packed with shows.

Over the course of the September festival, 26 shows were performed on the LSPU Hall stage. Each week featured a new lineup, presenting six plays each night, running Thursday to Sunday, with a series of matinees on the final weekend.

I managed to catch 11 short plays, spending Friday, Sept. 13 and 20 in the Hall, and was left wishing I had been able to see more.

Congrats to everyone involved on another successful year of St. John’s Shorts.


Dead Rat Productions: “The Office,” by Sophia Merritt

To share an office with walking, talking sexual harassment case Karen or useless space-case Gavin would be a difficult endeavour.

Janet and Tom, the only workers actually working on staff, are dealt a rough hand — Tom is under pressure to hit a deadline, only to learn he has completed the “wrong” report.

Janet gets fired by jealous Karen simply for having a loving partner.

This particular show was full of grimaces, groans and winces while laughing, and even a little bit of urging, whilst watching Gavin (Jeremy Nolan) chugging and spilling 3% milk all over himself onstage.


After-School Special: “The Fantasy Bond,” by Jules Tasca

Melanie Fleming and John Bowden star as Alice and Charles in this two-hander about a married couple on their second honeymoon.

Aware of Charles’ infidelity and his ultimatum from his mistress to end the marriage, the audience waited with bated breath.

Would Charles go through with the break-up? An unexpected plot twist left that question purposefully unanswered.

Melanie Fleming and John Bowden star as Alice and Charles in "The Fantasy Bond." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed
Melanie Fleming and John Bowden star as Alice and Charles in "The Fantasy Bond." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed

Strident Productions: “Revelations (Not That Kind),” by Christine Hennebury, Trudy Morgan-Cole and Lori Savory

An intense and in-depth look at the lengths mothers go to protect their daughters, this performance saw three actors (Jean Graham, Jamie Pitt and Greg Whelan) adopt multiple roles as they performed scenes from works by local authors, like Lori Savory’s “What You Sow,” Trudy Morgan-Cole's “Every Good and Perfect Gift” and director Christine Hennebury's “Understanding.”

Each short within the short was gripping and dazzled the imagination, with the audience left to fill in the conclusion.


Aariz Theatre: “The Boor,” by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Azal Dosanj

A farce focused on the various stages of grief, Mrs. Popov (Sarah Parsons) is still mourning her husband months after his passing when a Mr. Smirnov (Spencer Bellows) arrives at her home demanding payment for the deceased man’s debts.

A hilarious and dramatic performance by Parsons, Bellows and butler Patrick Dawson, this was probably one of my favourite local Chekhov shows to date.


Todos – Theatre and Film For All: “Altar,” by Santiago Guzmán

Writer Santiago Guzmán starred in his one-man show, also focused on love and relationships. In this play, Guzmán plays Eugenio, a heartbroken man pining over his ex-boyfriend.

Calling on his mother’s paranormal experience, Eugenio asks relatives about building an altar in hopes of summoning his ex to sort out his feelings.

A highly relatable and surprisingly hilarious show, Guzmán proved he is a new tour de force in the St. John’s theatre scene — keep an eye out for his name on future showbills.

Santiago Guzmán starred in a one-man show titled "Altar." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed
Santiago Guzmán starred in a one-man show titled "Altar." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed

Artsirk Productions: “My Three Husbands and Other Dating Stories,” by Krista Legge

A one-woman show written and performed by Krista Legge, this performance had me on edge. I haven’t had three husbands (yet), but I have dated online and offline, and damn, it takes guts to get up there in front of a massive crowd and detail your shortcomings in the relationship realm.

Half of the details Legge willingly gave to an audience are details that I wouldn’t even relay to my closest friends, but this just shows how Legge’s romantic journey has made her a stronger, braver person.


Power Productions: “In Your Eyes,” by Paul David Power

Once again, Paul David Power has succeeded in making me sob in public. I don’t cry very often, even in private, but somehow PDP knows exactly how to make tears flow from my face.
This time, it was the heart-wrenching subject matter and beautiful performance that got me.

Michael Nolan and Power star as a father/son duo exploring unknown territory as Dad’s Alzheimer’s forces him to move into a home.

A work in development, I already cannot wait to cry again at the full-length version of this deeply moving play.


Sw|Ft  (St. John’s Women’s Festival of Theatre): “Barely Mary,” by Wendi Smallwood

Smallwood originally asked this reviewer to omit a review of the show, which acts as somewhat of a follow-up of 2018’s “Resurrecting Mary.”

Speaking to the writer/performer after the show, I told her the truth – I laughed so hard so many times that I actually had to muffle myself with a jacket, in fear of giggling through another hilarious X-rated joke about ageing, dating and being a woman.

I’d watch a full-length version of this short, should Smallwood decide to keep building on this amazing character.

Wendi Smallwood in “Barely Mary.” (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed
Wendi Smallwood in “Barely Mary.” (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed

Mom’s Girls: “I’m Just a Girl (and Life Is a Nightmare)”

Elizabeth Hicks and Stephanie Curran starred in this sketch comedy “about being pals and being gals.”

Topics tackled included Air Canada losing your luggage, a millennial zombie apocalypse, women in comedy and more, including a musical performance dedicated to a hatred of bras.

My personal favourite was a skit about the gender wage gap, in which a female contestant on a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” type game show won only $8,700 after answering the $10,000 question correctly.

I’d happily watch a full-length show of sketch comedy from Mom’s Girls.


Mad As Hops Productions: “An Image Now of You Then,” by John Bowden

The kids are more than alright – they’re simply continuing to become better and better actors.

Starring a young cast (Cole Williams, Cam Johnson, Rachael Currie, Grant Hayden, Erica Foote), “An Image Now of You Then” tells two different stories, linked through the art of photography, using an old Polaroid camera as a common prop throughout.

I can’t wait to see what up-and-coming actors will create in years to come – especially Williams, a standout star.


Pennythoughts Theatre: “not the one,” by Chris Hibbs

A stark departure in theme from the previous show, writer Chris Hibbs performed his deeply moving one-man show to a very quiet theatre.

Cuddling his baby in the NICU, this dad, in between singing The Band songs, tells his newborn all about the life that awaits him outside the hospital, like his wonderful mom and his older brother, all while recounting his own childhood memories.

The play grows surprisingly dark and, at some point, leaves the audience questioning what is real and what is fantasy. Intricately intense, Hibbs received a one-woman standing ovation for his performance — from me.

Chris Hibbs in his one-man show "Not the One." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed
Chris Hibbs in his one-man show "Not the One." (Ashley Harding photo.) - Contributed


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