The Other Plays Strikes a Chord

Why does oppression and diversity go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly? Theater Breaking Through Barriers looks at this without so much as flinching. “The Other Plays” not only celebrates diversity, but raises awareness about  the neglect and discrimination that these groups face. Through deeply powerful storytelling, TBTB’s production offers us an unforgettable night of theater.

With short plays from new and existing playwrights, the evening really showcases the talent and remarkable spirit of those who are “othered.” Unlike many traditional plays, where the audience is somewhat removed from the action, these plays hit you right in the face. We have to face our own oppression, racism, sexism and prejudices. It was not “merely an entertaining night of theater.” but more of “we are here and we’re not going anywhere.” With its boldness, one can not help but challenge their own attitudes and oppressive ways.When you hit the nail right on the head like this piece does, it is very hard not to have the tough conversations that surround diversity.

Throughout the evening, we are treated to an insider look at having cancer, being deaf, and dating with Cerebral Palsy. And as great as Melanie Bond, Stephen Drabicki, and Ryan Haddad are, I can not help that but feel that these actors performances transcend desires for mere accolades. I think that they are really trying to say something with their work, which is the highest reason to “act”. One acts because they have something to say that cant be expressed any other way. All the actors in this show are compelled to tell their stories, which means we should listen!

The Other Plays plays through March 26th, 2017.

Orion Hits you like a Belt Buckle!

There is no logic when it comes to matters of the heart. All that ensues is a lot of heart-ache and unanswered questions. Matthew McLachlan’s new work, Orion, dives deep into this subject. This emotionally-charged work leaves us in a state of loss and despair.

What happens when Sam and Gwen break up after three years? Although, Gwen initiated the break, she still loves Sam but “feels” that she is doing the right thing. This leaves poor Sam in a perpetual state of confusion and desperation. Trying to help him through the ordeal is Scott, his best friend. Much of the play centers around the intense loss that Sam feels and the struggles he faces while trying to move on. When Gwen suddenly gets a new boyfriend, the knife in Sam’s heart is twisted even further.

So how does one move on and put the past in its place? Is there a set amount of time one should mourn the loss of a relationship? Blake Merriman (Sam) does a phenomenal job exploring the nuances of broken-heartedness and we are with him every step of the way. Amanda Jones does nice work playing Gwen. It is hard not to hate her and make her the villain, but Jones’ sincerity saves her. Scott Brieden is the ideal best friend as Scott. His loyalty and connectedness to Merriman is palpable. Rounding out the cast is Simone Serra, playing Abby Scott’s girlfriend. Serra is great in her role and delivers a strong performance.

Each character gets a turn to speak and confide in the audience. This device, although well-written monologues, gets predictable. On a personal note, I prefer plays that do not try to wrap everything up in a nice little box. This play does an outstanding job discussing the “grey” areas of relationships. I wish it did not try to make it all come together, but left us to grapple with the illogical nature of love. The numerous scene locales disrupt the flow a bit and detract from the continuity.

Overall, McLachlan’s play has a lot going for it. The subject matter is timeless and characters are relatable. This tears at the heart, as most people have been there. Despite the various scene shifts, this play grabs a hold of you and does not let go until it’s over. It’s an emotional roller-coaster in the best way possible!