Nine plays comprise the Gulfport Community Players’ 20th Annual Summer One-Acts, each from a different playwright. Each runs between 10 and 15 minutes. Audience members get ballots to vote for which play, actors, and directors will win a Cathy Award on Aug. 27.
For me, the winner is clear: “Bingham’s Ledge”, written by W.L. Newkirk.
“Bingham’s Ledge” was the gold standard of the night. It’s a quirky, moving, and surprisingly funny play about two strangers, a man and a woman. They arrive at the cliff’s edge, preparing to jump. Newkirk achieved what many others did not in the evening: A compelling story and character arcs that the audience audibly engaged with and connected to from beginning to end. There was a deep communal connection with this play. Two characters start alone and lonely, feeling there is nothing more in this life for them. By the end of the story, they stand together holding hands, looking out over the abyss. I sat there and thought, “please let them realize they found someone to live for.” All this happens in 10 minutes. As the evening of plays continued, I kept thinking back on “Bingham’s Ledge,” wanting more of this story.
The other eight uneven plays left me confused, and made me think the stories these playwrights want to tell must be longer to be effective. Here’s a short rundown of what to expect:
“The Football Game” by Jenell Lawlis emulates a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Four older women wearing sports jerseys sit around a TV watching a football game, acting like sexist men.
“Hostile Takeover” by Steven Miller is another skit with no discernible plot. A family gathers at their dinner table, but this family meeting is a corporate board meeting with bylaws, motions, and discussion of quarterly profits.
“The Meadow” by Ryan Kaminski is a mystery thriller with too much exposition and plot holes that left this short play a tad confusing.
“Imaginary Friends” by Enid Cokinus. A man returns to his childhood home to attend his father’s funeral. His imaginary friend from his youth appears. Like most of the plays included in this evening’s stories, this play needs more time for the playwright to develop the relationships and the story.
“Nice & Kind” by Stephen Taft. A young man is sitting reading a book on a park bench when an older woman and her imaginary dog arrive, wanting to share the bench.
“Inherit The Dumb” by Carl Williams. A public-school teacher is called to a meeting with school officials to debate teaching Creationism alongside Evolution.
“The Paperboy” by Connie Schindewolf. This play has a “Twilight Zone” kind of feeling. An older widow is alarmed when she finds a strange man sitting at her breakfast table.
“Will’s Dramaturg” by Rich Rubin. Shakespeare meets his career advisor at a pub. He repeatedly tells Shakespeare to remember his demographics.
It may serve the Gulfport Community Players better to find for future Summer One Act evenings four or five longer plays with more time to develop plot, characters, relationships, and story.