By Joanne Engelhardt
The Pear Playwrights Guild is made up of about fifteen playwrights, although five more are currently listed as “on leave.” Of the fifteen active playwrights, seven wrote short plays for this year’s Pear Slices, at Mountain View’s Pear theater. (Two wrote two each, making a total of nine short plays. The plays average about 10-15 minutes each.)
With such a focused pool of playwrights to draw from, it’s not surprising that the quality of the Slices varies. Sometimes widely. Perhaps this is due to each member of a small pool of playwrights having to churn out a short play every year or two.
That said, several of the nine actors and some of the shorts are attention grabbers. Leah Halper’s Way Home is one, with fine acting by Nique Eagen as Fannie Lou Hamer and Bezachin Jifar as her husband, Pap Hamer.
Halper’s A Lift is another. This short has Lisa, nicely played by Sarah Benjamin, picking up her father, Will (a solid Arturo Dirzo) as she drives to school. The two actors have good chemistry, discussing past problems and misunderstandings — although this reviewer sometimes found Benjamin difficult to hear.
But the first short, Sophie Naylor’s The Witching Hour needs a bit of work. It has great lighting and special effects, but the four witches making random comments (most of which make no sense to this reviewer) is challenging.
I also found Ross Peter Nelson’s Sweet Dreams Are Made of This confusing – something about AI controlling and stealing dreams. Next up is Robin Booth’s Fantasy Island where a woman named “IT” seemingly crawls out of the water after being kicked out of a canoe. At times Sandy Sodos as IT is amusing as she talks to a coconut (voiced by Eagen), but this short seems to be in search of an ending.
Aileen by Barbara Anderson takes place when police detectives arrest a black man (Jifar). If nothing else, this short gets the honor of presenting the toughest acting challenges of the night to Sarah Kishler as Detective Murphy.
Nirvandraw also by Sophie Naylor features Sandy Sodos using high-tech speak, and the piece has great wall projections. Yet: the point of this play eluded this reviewer.
After intermission, the aforementioned Way Home and A Lift were presented. The Street Has I’s by Greg Lam could stand some polish, but featured good acting by Tiffany Nwogu and Jifar.
Finally, a short that has promise (but didn’t seem to deliver same that night) is called Literary Mediation Services by Bridgette Dutta Portman which includes an actor appearing in a Moby Dick shark costume.
Behind the scenes, Carsten Koester deserves credit for good lighting and projections, and several of Pati Bristow’s costumes for Literary Mediation Services are exceptional.
Rated “PG” for mild adult themes including discussion of drugs and violence, this year’s Pear Slices runs approximately two hours, with one intermission.
Like a real crop of pears, the quality of writing, acting, and directing in Pear Slices varies from year to year. Here’s hoping next years crop is exceptional.
Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Production||Pear Slices 2023|
|Written by||Various Playwrights|
|Directed by||Caitlin Papp & Thomas Times|
|Producing Company||The Pear Theater|
|Production Dates||Thru May 14th|
|Production Address||1110 La Avenida, Suite A, Mountain View|
|Telephone||(650) 254 - 1148|
|Tickets||$35 – $38|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review PICK!||----|