GOING LITERAL Rope Trick's metaphor is pretty obvious.
It's time once again for Acorn Productions' annual celebration of the playwrights living among us. As in previous years, the Twelfth Annual Maine Playwrights Festival features two evening programs of short plays, this year numbering twelve. Last weekend also saw the staged reading of one full-length play, Cullen McGough's Want/Not; and an evening called Take Two, in which short monologues are presented twice, with different actors and directors. The festival will wrap up on May 5 with an array of theater artists under the gun for the all-night adventure of the 24-Hour Theater Project.
Program A, which runs for one more night on Sunday, bears the header "Beating the Odds" (and features alarmingly loud topical pop songs between plays). It opens with Michael Tooher's Rope Trick, in which a He (Tristan Rolfe) and She (Elizabeth Lardie), bedecked in camo, tug on a brazenly allegorical rope. The dialogue between them, abbreviated and childlike, moves perhaps a bit too slowly to the entrance of the Writer (Evadne Bryan-Perkins, in a very funny send-up), who informs them that they are her "constructs." What happens from there feels a little timeworn, but is, in the same sense, a classic device.
Holly Belle, by Sarah Paget, is a local-color drama set on a Maine island. Holly Belle is the name both of a young divorcee (Kara Haupt) and the boat that belonged to her dead father, still mourned by her mother, Nadine (Pamela Chabora). The boat has been sold to a young widower lobsterman, Lucas Eaton (Josh Brassard), much to Nadine's distress, but the three find unexpected connection. Paget draws Nadine's stubborn grief lyrically and sympathetically, and the play maintains a tone of wistful optimism, though her dead lobsterman's character is revealed through somewhat weighty exposition.
In Roger Clark Van Deusen's Slunkerfish, the fishing has considerably less verisimilitude. Angston (Cory King) and Hewitt (Randall Tuttle) are fishing on the Portland pier (though Tuttle's Hewitt seems more Bayou than Peninsula) when Angston catches the ominous titular fish. Things devolve from there for poor Angston, paralleled by the oblivious Hewitt's ichthyic folklore. The story is slight by nature, and sometimes the creative profanity feels a little forced, but at its best, the dialogue leaps entertainingly as the men talk past each other, and King's antics are great.
Memories of Paradise, by Bruce Pratt, is a more serious two-hander, launching from the interesting conceit of high school football buddies Alex (Randall Tuttle) and Mike (Josh Brassard). Alex is now the high school's football coach, and Mike's kid is the starting quarterback; the two grown men quibble not only over coaching strategies, but also the deep past. The characters both have depth and a banter that degenerates nicely, and though the plotline gets a little cluttered, Pratt's is an interesting conceit: how adolescence brings itself to bear on the dynamics of ostensible grownups.
Halo, by Hal Cohen, is a monologue featuring Patricia Mew (who is excellent here) as a Physician at a podium, narrating a harrowing experience treating an asthmatic child. The story launches with some interesting narrative leaps, and is richly detailed (with perhaps even a surplus of medical procedurals). The doctor initially presents some interesting asides of rude arrogance that would be compelling to follow up on, as would be the actual circumstances framing her telling of the tale.