01 March 2009

The first New Works New Britain Theatre Festival

Last night I attended the inaugural New Works New Britain Theatre Festival at Trinity-on-Main, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Nine one act plays in just under three hours, with a healthy intermission between plays 5 and 6, the event produced by New Britainite Mark Ohanesian and Carolyn Paine, brought to the stage a wide variety of situations and characters, from the silly to the deadly serious, with energy and skill.

Not all were equally successful, some due to confused direction, a less-than-satisfying script, or a pedestrian performance or two. Most, however, worked quite well, especially "Sisters" by Alex Dueben, directed by the aforementioned Mr. Ohanesian with Nick Roesler and Megan Weaver, and, "Driving Force," a little post-coital look at relationships by Jenny Lecce and directed by David McCamish. The former was the play that clicked best on all fronts: script/acting/direction. The latter, while it seemed to wander a bit at times, worked nonetheless because the actors, especially Andre Warmsley as Ben, were so natural in their performances.

The crowd most enjoyed "Stool" by Jacques Lamarre with its broadly comic bumpkins-in-the-big-city theme, but as the woman behind me predicted to her companion the outcome just after the play's halfway mark, its payoff was hardly surprising. The midwesterner in me, admittedly, thought the premise just a wee bit out-dated, but the actors were having fun...and, as I said before, the audience quite enjoyed it.

The most serious of the pieces was "Close Your Eyes" by Erin Striff which dramatized an infanticide by a British tourist in the '90s. While it contained marvelous moments of acting by the mother, Iris McQuillan-Grace, the play was hurt by staging that either the actors didn't execute well or was too confused to be comprehended (by me, at least).

These are minor quibbles, however. Overall, the evening was an undeniable success. Congratulations to all involved. I look forward to New Works New Britain II in 2010!


  1. Congratulations New Works New Britain on your first venture! It was easy to see just how much time and effort you all put into this Festival.
    Mr. Gigliotti, are you sure we saw the same show? Plays need to answer a couple of things what makes this event, time, different than any other that has already been before it, as in bigger than ordinary. EVERY character that comes on stage has to want or need something. And the essence of drama or comedy is action. 'Driving' had no real action. Yes, the character, Leah, wanted more than just a one night stand but what makes that different, bigger than any other lonely person after a one night stand who wants more? In 'Sisters' there was no recognition, no 'Ah ha, I get it,' moment. Nothing happens. There really was no reason for the sister's 'Sister' on stage except that she forwarded the protagonist's story, a sounding board. She doesn't really want anything. Her sister's happiness? why is that different? 'Sisters' was elevated by the level of the actors' talents, truly first rate performances.
    And 'Driving" was so slow, especially the part of Leah, that it flattened out the play most of the time. What stakes were raised?
    Also, predicting the outcome of a play doesn't make a play any less if it raises itself to answer the 'what makes this event different' question. Hints are a necessity in a play because the audience wants to be involved in solving 'the problem' plays should present.
    'He Offered His Girl A Martini' was a good 10 minute play among others that answered a plays questions, gave obvious hints and was one of the best plays.
    Well done New Works New Britain for giving playwrights a chance to develop their talents. You gifted them a chance to hear and see what did and did not work on stage with an audience in attendance for three performances, invaluable to any playwright no matter where they are in their careers. Monday they should be at their desks correcting their mistakes and raising the stakes for the play's next performance.

  2. Anonymous:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I do think a successful play can do a lot of different things other than the ones you mention, but I'm glad you enjoyed the ones you did.

    The important point is that the event was wonderful...clearly something for everyone.