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Chris Doty, Theatre in London
What's was on at the 2004 One-Act Festival and what your opinionated webmaster thinks of it...

***** a life-changing experience
**** no epiphany, but still a damned good show
*** better than dinner theatre
** at least the actors memorized their lines
* take your ticket money and flush it down the toilet instead

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The London One-Act Festival
June 21-26, 2004
McManus Studio Theatre

The Country of My Skin **1/2

Art, motherhood, survival and their ultimate importance to humanity are examined as three actors prepare to put on a play in a war-torn country. Ambitious, complex script by Cornelia Hoogland makes this one of the most challenging entries at the festival. Unfortunately, it is so talky all the characters are reduced to blathering ideologues a la Ayn Rand. Pity, because the actors are all top-notch.

Coming Out ***
One-joke play (although it's a great joke) about a squeaky-clean suburban family who discovers their teenaged son is a (gulp!) Negro. Funny, biting script is somewhat undercut by flat performances - although Matt McKenzie is hilarious as the button-down dad who represses his emotions about as well as his drinking problem. A flawed stone, but Coming Out is still a little gem. The third-best show I saw at the festival.

How Gay Is That? *
Well-meaning but shallow look at gay teens coming out of the closet. Troubled production (three of the leads were replaced days before the performance) can be forgiven for its aloof acting and awkward staging. However, Chris Martin's script is inexcusably unfocused and ignorant at times - particularly when a lesbian character gets turned on watching large-breasted women on television. How lame is that?

John Newberry Writes a Play **1/2
It's well-written, impeccably read and presented by a performer with undeniable stage presence. But it's not theatre. It's a memorized recitation in the third person and lacks the comic payoff it keeps promising its audience. However, if you like audio books….

The Answer Man **
This parody of 1970s television game shows plays like a spin-off of Chelsea and Boggs - and is nowhere as good. Animated cast gives it their all - particularly Nicole St. John as a contestant who is way too excited about winning a lifetime supply of dandruff shampoo. Unfortunately, Matt Martin's script is sophomoric, sloppy and a complete waste of time - and I'm not saying that to be nice.

A Triangle in Three Dances ****
Still waters run deep in this story about a struggling waiter (Rod Keith) who can't decide between a messed-up nude model (Martha Zimmerman) and a former classmate (Hannah Feiner) who just wants someone to take care of her. Potentially unpleasant character study reunites the leads from last year's Fire of the Mind with terrific results. Feiner's script keeps finding unexpected corners to explore while Zimmerman is superb as the over-dependent Katherine. Easily the best offering at this year's festival.

Fishy Wisdom **
One of those plays that's supposed to be good for you. Robbie Antone turns in a nicely understated performance as a showboat native leader who has ruined the life of a well-meaning social worker. Jocelyne Rioux is nicely addled as the bystander trapped between them in a broken elevator. Unfortunately, as the social worker, Shelley Dougherty reads her lines like she's learned them phonetically. Pedantic script by Leith Peterson makes a lot of good points about native relations and raises some interesting social issues - if you like that sort of thing.

Original Sins ***
Not-for-everyone show from last year's London Fringe Festival makes a welcome return to the London stage - and we can all be thankful it's in the air-conditioned McManus this time instead of that sweat box on Dundas Street. A clueless nun is sent to hell where she is entertained by a horny evangelist, a foul-mouthed folk singer and a Quebecois host who likes to eat dead babies. Repellently graphic and a little aimless but still a unique and unforgettable showcase for the consummate acting and singing talents of Jake Levesque. The second-best show of the festival.

Click here for current and upcoming productions
Click here for reviews of other 2004 productions

Click here for 2004 Fringe Theatre Reviews
Click here for the Theatre in London Website