You might think “comedy and improv” when you think of Table Salt Productions, and you would be right. But that’s not all that they do. They are on a mission to produce new work of many kinds – in this case a collection of short plays written by local women playwrights and directed by Martha Pettee, Maggie Scanlan and Maggie K. Sotos.
With 10 plays, “After the Apple” has an amazingly cohesive feel, due in part to sharing props on The Playwright’s Center simple stage, and projecting play titles and actors on a “screen” in one corner. But mostly it was the construction of the plays themselves and each one’s unique perception about one aspect of a woman’s life experience.
In each case, we are dropped “in medias res” with a story unfolding, with the point of it all delivered at the end. The usual arc of a longer piece with its potential for plot and character twists is turned into a sprint to a single reveal. As a group, it’s a provocative way to engage an audience and to provide so many entry points for illuminating what it can mean to be female, good or bad.
Here’s a look at each one:
In “What Can I Say?” by Julie Grover McArdle, a young cop investigates a robbery at a clothing shop. The woman in the shop (Andrea Guilford) can’t help but pry into his personal life, after a peculiar instigating incident. As charming as Guilford is, this one seems to cover a little too much emotional territory for the size of the piece.
Chatting with a new hire in a hair salon, a woman reveals her personal journey with accepting her daughter as a “lesbian woman.” “Color and a Cut” by Shanan Custer is both poignant and funny. I wish, though, that there had been another character for the other side of the conversation.
In a series of short sketches, familiar gods (Hades, Hera, Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite) meet with potential dates in a restaurant in an attempt to hook up. “Greek Gods Go Speed Dating” by Jen Scott is a fun “what if” and pretty darned accurate, too. Benjamin Kolis as a completely believable geeky astronomer, quite taken with the goddess Diana, gave the performance of the night.
“Two Boys: Eins and One” by Beth Gilleland is really a short story performed as a monologue, but it’s a sweet story and quite engaging.
Christina Ham’s “Crawlspace” is absorbing and brutal, cramming a lot of harsh reality in a very short space. Matt Saxe and Rachel Linder handled their edgy characters with confidence.
“After the Fire” by Anne Byrd deals with coming to terms with loss and finding a path to recovery.
Willie Loman and Blanche DuBois meet in another “what if” in “On the Bus with Willie and Blanche” by Polly Grose. It’s an extension of the character study built in their first dramatic homes, which serves to illustrate just how rich the original material is. And it changes the endings of those plays!
In “Thomas” by Rachel Brogan Flanery, a woman speaks to someone we are to understand is a therapist. But this play, too, functions as a monologue where two people actually live in the story. Even if the other character hadn’t said much, I think it would have been useful to have him/her there. This has a powerful narrative, but it’s almost impossible to be sure of what’s really going on. I suspect all is revealed in the last line of the play; unfortunately I couldn’t hear it.
The woman in “If You Were Mine” by Aamera Siddiqui strings her lover along for her own purposes. It’s a clever turn on the illicit love affair theme.
As a group, these plays comprise a worthwhile evening of new theater, and I heartily encourage you to support these local artists. “After the Apple” runs through February 23.
Photo: Rachel Linder and Matt Saxe in “Crawlspace” by Christina Ham.