Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cleveland Public Theatre: At-TEN-tion Span

Cleveland Public Theatre is quick to point out that that At-TEN-tion span isn't merely a festival of unfinished short plays but is, instead, a single show of twelve short plays loosely linked together.

This year all twelve works are works created by Cleveland artists and cultivated at CPT, and all are in effect world premieres. Some are funny, some are weird, some are introspective, some are most of the above. Though I was completely sober going into the show there are a few where, to be completely honest, I think a bit of a buzz could have helped make a bit more sense out of a few of them: And if you care to take my advice there, you're in luck: The bar in the lobby is open a bit early.

Throughout the evening performances move on and off stage and around the theater-- sometimes the audience is instructed to take a seat -- literally -- while moving from piece to piece; others you are moved to seating mysteriously prepared while you're otherwise occupied.

At-TEN-tion Span runs at CPT through February 4th.

The works are
Act I
The Refrain, conceived and directed by Jeremy Paul; featuring Ray Caspio, Jenni Messner, Adam Seeholzer
Openings, conceived and directed by Raymond Bobgan; featuring members of the ensemble
Crash Project conceived and directed by Pandora Robertson; featuring Ray Caspio, Lauren Joy Fraley, Caitlin Lewins, Adam Seeholzer
Fail, conceived and directed by Simone Barros; featuring Faye Hargate, Darius Stubbs
How... conceived and directed by Raymond Bobgan; featuring the ensemble
Act II
How 2, conceived and directed by Raymond Bobgan; featruring the ensemble
El Beth-el, conceived and directed by Dairus Stubbs; featuring Dionne D. Atchison, Stevem Schureger, Darius Stubbs
The Three Musketeers conceived and directed by Douglas H. Snyder; featuring Lauren Joy Fraley, Caitlin Lewins, Lauren B. Smith
To Fasten Your Seatbelts... conceived and directed by Renee Schilling; featuring Ray Caspio, Jere,y Paul, Amy Schwabuer, Lauren B. Smith
If I Lie, conceived  and directed by Chris Seibert; featuring Molly Andrews-Hinders, Amy Schwabuer, Adam Seeholzer
Sealed, conceived and directed by Raymond Bobgan, featuring the ensemble.

While the program was generally linked, as far as subject matter it was like channel surfing a hotel's cable TV lineup -- or Cleveland weather: If you didn't like what you were watching (or if it was making you think too hard) just wait a few minutes and something completely different would be along.

So for me I didn't really get The Refrain or Sealed -- and after the performance Rachel warned that if I tried thinking too hard my head might explode. How and How 2, both products of CPT Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan bookended Intermission and the way in which the actors are utilized reminded me of atoms in a molecule bouncing off each other exchanging electrons and ideas.

I'm not sure how much I can say about Openings without giving away this delightfully surprising mirror on real-life-theater but be prepared to do quite a bit of looking around -- and perhaps choose a seat near the back for the best view

Fail takes a nervous tick and amplifies it before transferring it as one heretofore unsuccessful writer discovers that the successful writer doesn't have all the control that he thinks where a pregnancy is involved and was one of Rachel's favorites.

While all were well acted, The Three Musketeers was at the top of its game with what I think was a commentary on relationships -- again Rachel warned me that my head may go boom if I thought too hard on it -- and was just generally funny.

My hands down favorite, though, was To Fasten Your Seatbelts: It didn't require critical though but had me laughing out of my seat (I was within about a half inch of winding up on the floor) and is a subject near to my heart: Air travel. While the cast of zany flight attendants make it funny, I think the stress of an interview or an on-the-job test makes this relatable to just about anyone who's set foot in the real world: This alone was worth the trip to the West Side; combined with all of the others it was an evening well spent.

Synopses, summaries, or even the intended meaning of the plays was not included in the program so please feel free to share your take or interpretation in the comments


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