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REVIEW Wendy Rose: St. John’s Short Plays long on entertainment

Photo courtesy Ashley Harding Photography
Director Olivia Heaney and writer/performer Josh Goudie pose in in their pink Pussyhats before the debut performance “Mansplaining,” a stand-out performance from the opening night of the St. John’s Shorts Festival.
Photo courtesy Ashley Harding Photography Director Olivia Heaney and writer/performer Josh Goudie pose in in their pink Pussyhats before the debut performance “Mansplaining,” a stand-out performance from the opening night of the St. John’s Shorts Festival. - Contributed

The St. John’s Short Plays Festival (SJS) kicked off with a stacked line-up Thursday, marking the beginning of the 10-day festival, which boasts a whopping 22 shows at the LSPU Hall in downtown St. John’s.

Welcoming the crowd to the festival’s opening night, SJS board member Susan Kelsey asked the audience a witty question, “How often do you get to binge watch theatre?”

With six performances per day, and an astounding bill of nine shows every Saturday, the time to binge watch theatre is now, without the mildly insulting “Are you still watching?” prompts.

Thursday’s bill began at 7 p.m. with “Sure Thing,” a Hobbits & Cookies production. The characters meet by chance and strike up conversation, hitting a bell every time the conversation takes an unwanted twist. This exploration in crafting the perfect first impression was a genius idea, executed with hilarity.

In an attempt to figure out Sidespin Theatre’s “Murmuration,” a bizarre show following two simple men, Jody and Ham, I asked one of the actors about the meaning of a particular scene and prop, and even he was unsure if there was a definitive answer to my question. In two words, this play was psychologically challenging.

The next show, Executive Doghaus’ existential masterpiece “Blueprint,” forced the audience to look inward, and to ask ourselves challenging questions about our lives and our approach to living it. Starring high school students from Ascension Collegiate, this show was surprisingly dark and thought-provoking, making me wonder if Generation Z are doomed to a lifetime of existential crisis, or if they’re more in tune with the world than the rest of us.

After a break, the late night shows began at 9:30 p.m., with Fit for the Stage’s “Mansplaining,” written and performed by Joshua Goudie.

Described as “satire for the post #metoo world,” my original expectations for this one-man show were low, but Goudie’s portrayal of a yoga teacher trying to wake up his fellow men from a lifetime of toxic masculinity was actually very well presented, educated, and most importantly, “woke.” “Mansplaining” was the stand-out performance of the night, and I already have plans to see it again.

AD Productions’ “First Date,” was next. A two-hander play recounting two sides of one story, Elle and Andy recall where it all went wrong. Retelling memorable events that transpired between them, from peer pressure in high school, to feeling awkward at parties, the daunting idea of physical intimacy, growing older and bolder, and most poignantly, the importance of unambiguous consent, this show inspired an attentive silence from the crowd.

Last, but certainly not least, was a improv performance of “The Town,” from Stanley Braxton Co. Asking the audience for a piece of gossip to get the troupe rolling, I drew inspiration from an old Newfoundland folk song, yelling out, “I don’t want your maggoty fish, that’s no good for winter.”
They decided to run with the idea, bringing the audience on a whirlwind adventure featuring a controversial lobster fisherwoman and her angry religious husband, a sneaky salted vegetable salesman, and a father/daughter duo trying to repair a relationship ruined by bad fish. The plotline was thick, but the cast executed their on-the-fly show with expertise, inspiring plenty of laughs from the audience.

With 15 shows left to debut at the St. John’s Shorts Festival, I’m stoked to see what the rest of the fest has in store.

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