THEATRE REVIEW / SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATER: PARALLEL UNIVERSES showing at Red Barn Theatre
Mimi McDonald, Gary McDonald, Amber McDonald Good, Jack McDonald and Mike Marrero
Review by Emily Berg
Short Attention Span Theater at the Red Barn has become a recurring favorite for Key West theater fans and for good reason. The production brings multiple short plays to the stage, each show casing a unique voice of a different playwright and director. It’s always been one I look forward to because it serves as a taster of sorts, introducing me to new-to-me writers in a bitesize format.
This years’ theme is “parallel universes” with six plays exploring our current reality and others that still embody the human experience in a variety of ridiculous ways.
The opening scene sets the stage for this perfectly as a woman has an existential crisis after finding a too good to be true sale on frozen dinners while grocery shopping. Each play works like this, dealing with big issues with extreme humor.
In the next scene a Sasquatch couple completes the census and questions why there are only two options for gender. In the next the writers of Webster’s Dictionary deal with a PR nightmare after failing to capture the definition complexities of “bitch”.
These and the remaining vignettes of Short Attention Span Theater use many of the classic formats of sketch comedy but it seems the the goal is to communicate something deeper. Act two, for example, begins with what first appears to be a meeting of an anthropomorphic penguin and octopus, but we quickly learn the scene is actually set in the future and the topic is much darker than it seems.
The play that follows comes at this transition from light to dark in the opposite direction. A father lies on his death bed as his children gather around. But the dying man can’t stop posting to Facebook even in his final moments and this causes his children to go through a wide range of emotions in a short time.
Each member of the six person cast is perfect in this respect, showing both thier comedic and dramatic ranges. The balance of humor and depth could become muddled if not for the exceptional cast. The actors, all Key West veterans of the stage, each have impeccable comedic timing and dramatic control which makes each short play work.
I found the final scene, a parody of a classic parlor room mystery, played with the whole cast, to be my favorite (though it’s a tight competition). I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed harder at a live theater performance.
The show is also impressive technically. Six unique sets are put up and dismantled quickly between each play. And the design of these sets, as well as the costumes and props, are not neglected. Each scene is detailed and beautiful.
This is what’s great about Short Attention Span Theater. It’s has the light fun humor of sketch comedy but the polished beauty of a theater performance. This years production is no exception and is not to be missed.
Short Attention Span Theater: Parallel Universes runs now through April 29 at the Red Barn Theatre. Tickets are available at redbarntheatre.com.[livemarket market_name="KONK Life LiveMarket" limit=3 category=“” show_signup=0 show_more=0]