Local playwrights take on modern issues

Playfest 23 kicks off with weekend of shorts

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Three grown children come home to visit their mother and find out their dad was reincarnated as an unruly pitbull. And with that, Key City Public Theater’s 23rd annual Playfest began.

Featuring three produced short plays and three staged readings written by local playwrights, acted and directed by KCPT, the festival of new works kicked off March 1 with familial discord.

“Karma Descending,” by David Hundhausen, immediately loosened up the audience with its quirky plot line and the familiarity of a retired, ultra-spiritual mother getting a visit from her three grown, slightly ungrateful children.

But a sudden twist into darkness at the end of “Karma Descending” prepared the audience for the next produced short, “The Cord,” by Deborah Wiese, in which a ghost with incredibly vocal facial expressions helps guide a dying grandmother closer to her grandson. Their conversation, occasionally interrupted by the ghost, just gently brushed the heavy themes of generational misunderstanding, the existence of God, and what a good Christian family does with a gay son.

But the curse of a short play is that all too soon the audience was swept off into “The Vortex,” by Doug Given, in which a 1950s-era husband and wife are stuck in a world where everything is fine. Just fine. Except the husband can’t seem to hear what his wife, who has an ominous obsession with Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” is telling him. The repetitious dialogue provoked the characters to ask those big life shattering questions, like, “Am I happy?” But stuck in a vortex, they were ultimately unable to answer them.

While the three produced plays explored darkness in families, the staged readings, which debuted March 2, took on social problems.

Christopher Clow’s “Coffin Nails” depicted a freelance journalist who is going to ruin the life of another writer to live up to his truth-seeking ideology.

Kimberly Hinton’s “Red Tide” presented a dystopia where two strangers meet and share a tender moment amidst blood-red water, dead manatees and no cell phone service. Its endearing characters were lovable, but the jarring reminders of the “Red Tide” and the other-worldly circumstances of the setting, subtly hinted at how humanity might eventually destroy itself.

“Stationary” by Lillie Moses brought the effects of violence to life when four strangers met and realized they had all lost something in a bombing that had happened at a train station years ago.

Each of the shorts took on a different contemporary issue.

“We went on a journey,” said KCPT Director Denise Winter, who added that the festival offered playwrights a chance to see their work in action.

In turn, the audience got to witness the bravery of a writer, who, after showing a new piece of work was able to sit down in front of the first people to see it and ask, as playwright Deborah Wiese did, “Does my play work?”

schedule

March 8

1 p.m. ­— One-Act Readings of Coffin Nails, Red Tide, Stationary, at the Pope Marine

3 p.m. — One-Act Productions of Karma Descending, The Cord, The Vortex

5 p.m. — “Global Warming: A Comedy”

7:30 p.m. — An Evening with Tira Palmquist, and premier of the play, “Hold Steady.”

March 9

10 a.m. — Free Playwriting Workshop

1:30 p.m. — Teen Lab, that includes a talk with Tira Palmquist

4 p.m. — “Needles & Pins”

5:30 p.m.— Open Rehearsal of “Hold Steady”

7:30 p.m. — Working Drafts

7:30 p.m. — “Global Warming: A Comedy”

March 10

10 a.m. — Playwriting Intensive

2 p.m. — One-Act Readings of Coffin Nails, Red Tide, Stationary

3:30 p.m. — “Hold Steady”

5:30 p.m. — “Global Warming: A Comedy”

7:30 p.m. — One-Act Productions.

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