With this visit to the Sacred Fools Black Box being somewhat of a last minute addition to my Fringe schedule (so last minute that I bounced out of closing night bows of Jersey Boys at the Ahmanson a tinse early to make this 11:30PM performance) I was honored to be invited to the Urban Theatre Movement's premiere selection of short plays, Urban Unrest. Similar to my feelings about showcases and monologue jams, I am not all about that "collection of short plays" life. Kind of like how I prefer long distance running to a circuit workout, I feel more accomplished and complete as a result of watching a full-length play. So I was very pleased to find that the show completely flipped my expectations upside-down. They really picked the best of the best material for this compilation production.
Championed by the Pulitzer Prize -winning playwright of The Mother F$@&er With the Hat, the infamously ballzy yet equally poignant Stephen Adly Guirgis, the Urban Theatre Movement strives to elevate the conversation of how we handle contemporary racism in all its forms. In this particular lineup, we see four short plays in which minorities are featured in truthfully developed roles that serve up these topics directly to audience, both literally and metaphorically up close and personal. The more dramatic of the bunch, Obscuridad written and directed by Brenda Banda seemed slightly out of place in the otherwise collection of stinging dark comedies. Nonetheless, it still made a pressing statement about the power dynamic within the family home and its domino effect in crisis. Not only are these stories ones that have a pertinent need to be told, but the voices used to tell them fairly execute the message from all culturally relevant viewpoints. It's clear that the company is committed to that very ideal, continuing to press forward with content dedicated to both expressing and defending all voices. And the other three writers do a great job of sending that message home through some pretty smartly written comedy.
Each of the shorts has their own charm and humor although the company really saved the best for last with Replica, written, directed and acted by Paul Tully. Total Stephen Adly Guirgis vibes from this one, to say the least, and its explosive energy really shuts the whole place down. In this very high stakes, high tension, high energy short, Spencer Weitzel portrays... pretty much a methed-up Thomas Middleditch, which actually isn't so difficult to imagine, right? We watch him, under the affectations of both drugs and alcohol struggle to battle temptation that could cost him a friendship, an ally, and consequently his life. Superb acting all around in this scene (probably because they had a stellar script to work with) but Weitzel, with a delivery so committed he's pretty much sweating buckets by lights out, really closes this one out with a bang. Very cool bro.
Thank God this show earned itself the encore award (along with the Rogue Machine West Coast Premiere Award) so you have two more chances to see it this Friday June 30th and Saturday July 1st at 8PM at Sacred Fools as a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Do not hesitate to support this very smart, culturally relevant independent production. As for me, as I'm drafting a full-length four act drama currently, the edgy-ness of this show, both stylistically and textually have made me think differently about the presentation of some of the scenes, in a good way. The style has inspired me. Anyway, I would love to see more work come to life through these writers, directors, actors at the Urban Theatre Movement in the very near future, but the present is now so check out Urban Unrest while you still can!