Theater fans in the Mid-Ohio Valley are in for a treat in that they’ll have an opportunity to see performances of three brand-new shows written by local playwrights and performed local actors. One of the best parts of the festival is the variety of styles they’ll experience as the shows are so completely different from each other. There will be laughter, maybe a tear or two, and the evening will end with lots of silly jokes and over-the-top performances.
The evening starts with The Hart of Summer, by Becca Buck of New Martinsville. Inspired by stories she was told by her grandfather, it is a series of vignettes built around a large group of siblings and a neighbor boy they grew up with. They all take place on a sandbar in a nearby creek and some are silly, such as when the boys go skinny dipping and forbid the baby sister to join them. She gets her revenge in a very itchy way. Others start out seemingly carefree but turn out to be about important rites of passage, such as being drafted into the Vietnam War and coming to terms with their little sister going on her first date. And when that date goes terribly wrong, the story takes a decidedly darker turn. And all the performances are spot-on. The players bring the story to life wonderfully, as they face the bleak prospect of war, needing to become an adult too soon, and even the catastrophic loss of innocence.
Next up is a dark comedy entitled On Squirrels and Gophers by Timothy Kinker. It seems Dad and his teen-aged daughter (is she fifteen or sixteen?) are going on the camping trip he’s been promising her since she was a wee tot. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. And neither does Mom. But Dad left a note, right? Probably. As they talk, it becomes clear parent and child struggle to relate or even communicate on the most basic level. He’s clearly trying to talk to her about something, but between his quirkiness and her resentment of him over a past situation, it just isn’t going well. She eventually decides he’s breaking the news about “The D Word”, when he’s actually talking about another scary letter—C. He thought she knew all along, but it appears Mom isn’t any better at communication than Dad. Eventually, they get to a point where they understand each other at least a little. Old wounds are finally at least starting to heal. It’s not always easy to keep up with the story, as we struggle to understand Dad just as much as his daughter does. But stick with it—it’s worth it in the end.
The evening comes to a zany end with The Banker’s a Bad Guy! or Hope Never Dies! A Melodrama by Kay Doak. The jokes are terrible, the puns are worse, and the story is completely predictable, which is exactly as it should be. The bad guy, subtly named Montrose DeMoneytaker, and his minion Rattlesnake Sue, are just plain evil and the good guy, appropriately named Dwight Quiteright is kindness personified. Caught up in their conflict is our lovely heroine, Hope Neverdice.
The evening is intended to honor the memory of those who’ve lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus, including Keith Nichols, Becca Buck’s grandfather. So, come and enjoy three shows and pay tribute to those you may have lost at the same time. The curtain goes up on Friday, May 7 at 8pm, with subsequent performances on May 8, 14, and 15. Tickets are available at movp.org.