Monday, August 23, 2010

my final bad review

Box 5:
Reviewing a show on the last night of its run is not our usual policy. But because of schedule conflicts and snafus, I was not able to catch Box 5 until the closing night of BoxFest. And to be honest, I'm glad I did!
In years past, Boxfest has produced at least one show - or maybe two - that knocked attendees' socks off and generated plenty of buzz. And while a few shows this year were certainly well staged and thoroughly enjoyable, none reached the level of excitement that Timeless: The Dancical earned a few years ago or The Opal Show did last year. Both had celebrated lives after BoxFest, and each subsequently earned a Wilde Award nomination for best original comedy.
Such a fate could also be in the future for Armchair Dating by Margaret Edwartowski, whose drama Snowbound earned the up-and-coming playwright a 2010 Wilde Award nomination for Best New Script. In this delightful comedy, an artist named Peter (Matt Forbes) and an actress named Liz (Julie Brock) are set up on a first date by Peter's best friend and longtime roommate, Chuck (Ryan Falcheck). The play opens after the date when Peter gets home - and Chuck wants to know how it went. Likewise, Liz's friend Anita (Megan Wright) wants to hear the gory details. So through flashbacks we learn what happened - and why a second date may not be likely. Or will it? Edwartowski's dialogue sparkles throughout, and her characters are totally believable and well conceived. In lesser hands, though, her concept of jumping back and forth through time to tell her story COULD have been confusing to follow, but director Andrea Scobie expertly moves it through time and place with careful precision. (At the end of the night, Scobie was honored - and deservedly so - as winner of the audience vote competition, which enables her to stage a late night show this season at Planet Ant Theatre.) Performances were fine all around, but Forbes and Falcheck were best at creating wholly unique characters.

The second and final one-act, Birthday Beer by Jacquelyn Priskorn, shows what can happen when longtime friends of the opposite sex move in together - supposedly just as friends. But one has feelings for the other, which bubble to the surface when Carla (Carla Angeloni) learns Dean (Patrick Hanley) has invited his ex-girlfriend (and now stripper) to dinner to celebrate his birthday. Personally, I didn't believe Dean's scene-ending conversion, but I suspect romantics and Lifetime TV viewers may see it otherwise. Partly, my reaction was the result of an under-developed script; it could have used some additional time to show us the deeper connection between the two friends. But I also didn't see any real character development on the part of the actors that proved to me their love for one another was real.

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