from BackStage West - November 3-9, 2005
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
"I can't understand why every actor in town doesn't come here to work," notes producer Brian E. Rochlin, in reference to the weekly late-night tour de force he mounts out of the Powerhouse Theatre. Indeed, the Friday night event provides such a unique and potentially exciting opportunity to strut one's stuff, it should be the sort of thing that every performer in town flocks to.
Here's how the show works: At around 9pm on a Friday, a group of random actors shows up at the theatre. A group of random writers show up at the theatre as well, each writer armed with scripts that he or she has written especially for the evening. The only rule is that the scripts have to be less than 3 minutes long and can't destroy the space. The writers quickly cast the actors in their showlets. Anyone who shows up is part of the pool: Show up with a script, or show up and be cast. The various casts and writers rehearse for something like an hour. Then, around 11 pm the casts, writers, and assembled audience troop into the theatre to watch and perform each other's shows.
On the night reviewed, the bill consisted of some 18 vignettes, none over three minutes, and several clocking in at under a minute. As one might expect, the vignettes ranged widely in theme, depicting a variety of experience. There was a dandy horror tale, about a young couple trapped in a haunted house being stalked by a monster with an ax. And there was a funny Saturday Night Live-type skit about a naked couple who disrupt a Halloween party. Other skits were less successful, but what the heck! Each lasted only a couple of minutes, so the viewer barely had enough time to get bored before it was time for the next one.
The quality of writing and performance, even under the most arbitrary and random circumstances of what is essentially a theatrical open mic, is surprisingly high. Certainly, even though many of the playlets are written in haste, they are more than on par with many of the supposedly comparatively developed one-act plays put on by better-known local theatre companies. Although the show's varied experiences is one of its major allures, it would also be fun to see the "best" of several months worth of these shows put onto a bill and presented as a bona fide production.
Presented by and at the Powerhouse Theatre,
3116 Second St., Santa Monica, Fri 11pm
Sep. 30-Nov 18. (323)646-0033