12:15PM

Random thoughts by a Humana veteran from the 34th annual Humana Festival

Living in Louisville, I’ve been at nearly every Humana Festival except for the nine years I lived in San Francisco.  Festival number 34 was neither the best nor the worst but I wish it had offered at least one breakout piece such as “After Ashley” or “Omnium Gatherum” or “Becky Shaw” or “God’s  Man in Texas” from previous years.

It’s odd that there were so many one-word titles this year: “Sirens,” “Heist!,” “Fissures” (though it had “lost and found” as a  parenthetical subtitle), “Ground,” and “Phoenix.” Local friends who go to festival plays are always eager to let me know what they think. This year I was surprised that so many of them despised “The Cherry Sisters Revisited.” They had expected so much more from the  topic. Some left at intermission. ATL has extended the play past the festival until April 11. I wonder if the bad word of mouth will affect attendance.

I’ve been disappointed in the Ten Minute Plays in recent years (ever since that brilliant Pillsbury Doughboy play by Sheri Wilner called “Bake Off” in 2002). But this year’s Greg Kotis offering called “An Examination of the Whole Playwright/Actor Relationship Presented as Some Kind of Cop Show  Parody” was supremely funny and a real winner.

Did anyone else wonder why director and co-author Dominique Serrand wasn’t listed as a  cast member in “Fissures (lost and found)”?  I found it strange. Audience members not familiar with him must have been puzzled to have him show  up toward the play’s end and take over the show. Who was that unmasked man? I was told he did not want to be listed alongside others in the cast.

On a similar note would it have helped or hurt to have noted in the program that “Phoenix” actors  Suli Holum and Trey Lyford are married to each other?  And why wasn’t it possible for playwright Scott Organ to let us know what the male character did for a living?  The woman is a nurse but we had no clue as to what he did, though he said he had a lot of accrued vacation time to use for his following her to Arizona.  I spotted  a Bauhaus volume in the bookcase in his apartment.  Maybe that meant something?

All those white costumes in “Fissures (lost and found)” reminded me  of Mac Wellman’s “Description Beggared:  or The Allegory of Whiteness” in the 25th festival.  It took place in the new millennium in which everything and every one was very white.  Very ghostly.

To each his own, but I found “The Method Gun” a tedious empty exercise in nothingness.  The actress in it who calls the play bullshit was oh, so right.  Something as silly and meaningless as this makes me angry. An overreaction perhaps.  People in the profession obviously enjoyed it. But  I felt vindicated when a prominent actress who has appeared in the festival asked me what I thought of it and agreed with me totally.  She thought it was an outrage. All that writing and drawing on the floor by cast members in “The Method Gun” and “Fissures (lost and found” got to be a somewhat annoying  way for the audience to be carefully taught.

I marveled at the way the Acting Apprentice Company managed the logistics  for “Heist!” at 21C Museum Hotel.  All very smoothly presented while moving those crowds through the labyrinthine plot—and enjoyable to boot. Finally I must say I am always impressed by the elegant professional  way that Chris Rawson represents ATCA in the award presentations made to playwrights just before the Ten Minute Plays on Saturday night. He does the organization proud.

Charles Whaley, Louisville