The Magnetic Theatre makes an official return to a permanent facility at 375 Depot St. in the River Arts District. It’s across the street from the space it left a little over two years ago. A soft opening features Brief Encounters, a series of one-act plays. Now, one-act plays can be a tough sell. And it usually takes four or more to make up a full evening. Also, audiences are not accustomed to the shorter format, which has become more of a staple of college programs for young directors and actors. Still, Magnetic Theatre was not dissuaded from making this its re-launch.
Six one-act shows make up the newest iteration of Brief Encounters, directed by Carin Metzger, Elliot Weiner, Justin Evans, Toni Sherwood, Rodney Smith and Rachel McCrain. A tight ensemble of actors appears throughout the evening. Kristen Aldrich, Judy Calabrese, Justin William Evans, Garrett Funk, Kirby Gibson, Alphie Hyorth, Tracy Hyorth and Allen T. Law make a solid team, covering the wide array of talent needed to bring these challenging plays to life.
Family Abandoned kicks off the evening, with a shade of Waiting For Godot inserted into a “Leave It To Beaver” family construct. Safe Driving Now takes the audience to a driver’s re-education class from hell. It is the only one of the six plays written by local author, Jim Julien. Scream In America II ends the first half of the show It has the most moving piece of the evening, yet is the simplest production. A male and a female actor stand in light, facing out, talking to no one in particular, but vaguely to one another as they chart the epic journey from first meeting to falling in love, failing in love, and ultimately facing the death of a loved one.
The second half opens with the heavy Tug Of Love, with difficult performances tackled fearlessly by Gibson and Tracy Hyorth. Office Culture humorously takes us through break room politics and paranoia, with an Albanian cultural twist for laughs. The evening ends with the best titled play: A Homeless Colony Burned my Ukelele for Warmth, which skewers our cultural conscience by depicted a couple being endlessly given cups of coffee from a barista as they complain of the waste in the world and other ills, while mindlessly discarding their cups onto the ground around them.
Thought-provoking and often amusing, Brief Encounters gives the audience a clever, entertaining and insightful evening of bite-size theater, perfectly christening the all new Magnetic 375 facility.
The real pat on the back goes to Magnetic Theatre for its unwavering faith and its dedication to only doing original, un-produced works. It’s a bold path to take, but the company has proven that it is up to the challenge.
WHAT: Brief Encounters
WHERE: Magnetic 375, themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, May 16. Thursday through Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. $18