REVIEW: ‘You may see yourself’ in BLT’s Bill and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival


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Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

by Shelli Park

As humans with so much self-awareness and above-average intelligence in the animal kingdom, relationships can be difficult and rewarding. Our lives begin in relation to our parents for better or worse; we establish relationships with siblings and peers in which a pecking order is established; we seek out relationships with others to fulfill different needs.

Look in the mirror of the first two plays presented in the Bill and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival, produced by Burien Little Theatre, and you may see yourself, or someone you know, reflected in these well-written festival winners. Here is some background information about the Festival, which Burien is so fortunate to host:

“The mission of the Bill and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival is twofold: to encourage Washington State playwrights to pursue their craft and to showcase previously unproduced plays written by Washington state residents. Playwrights submit scripts, which are evaluated by a panel of judges who select the winners. BLT produces the winning plays in the festival.

The Festival, which occurs every two years, was named to honor Bill and Peggy Hunt’s dedicated service to theater and their devotion to and involvement with BLT. Peggy Hunt joined Burien’s theater scene in 1960 with a leading role in “Harvey.” Over the next 35 years both Bill and Peggy appeared in and directed plays, designed and built sets, served on the Board of Directors, and were involved in some aspect of every theater project.”

Bottom Line opens on a cozy living room scene. A young woman named Crystal (Natalie Schmidt) enthusiastically arranges ceremonial implements. A moment later, Jack, Crystal’s husband (Riley Donohue), bursts through the front door, tripping over a tree placed directly in front of the entrance. Thus we enter into the play of personalities.

The relationship between Jack and Crystal is very well articulated through Judith Jacobs’ writing. She fills the characters with nuances and quirks, which remain consistent throughout, and we find them to be very relatable and endearing.

The main theme here is money. Our relationship to money affects our relationship with others and our sense of self. Through a ceremony, Crystal is sure that, if done correctly, money will come their way in the form of a winning lottery ticket. Jack is a skeptic and would rather relax with a beer after a day of unfulfilling work.

Faith, creativity, love, and acceptance all find their way into the dialogue. The verbal repartee is satisfying and quick-paced, and the actors embody their characters wonderfully. The content of Bottom Line gives plenty of entertainment while giving enough to ponder without overwhelming the mind, leaving space for the next offering.

Undiscovered Places, the second play, is an offering of relational lacework. D. Richard Tucker gives us a portrait of a man grappling with the insecurities of being human. Dan (Kevin Finney, remembered with fondness from Dead Man’s Cell Phone, 2012) is a good man. He loves his wife and wants to support her as she continues to grieve eight years after the death of her 16 year-old son, Scotty. Finney brings a palpable feel of Dan’s struggles to this production.

Eloisa Cordona, last seen in the fabulous Anna of the Tropics, BLT’s collaboration with Latino Theatre Project last summer, plays Greta, Dan’s grieving wife. She is immersed in the loss of a part of herself. A parent derives a reason to live though the act of having a child. When the child is lost, so is a part of one’s reason to live. Greta suffers greatly here.

We are introduced to Greta’s struggle on the day of the eighth anniversary of Scotty’s death. She is untouchable in her pain and Dan is ineffectual in his attempts to help her. He wonders if he is at fault; he wonders if perhaps he cannot understand because he has never been a father. Dan conjures a companion in the form of Greta’s dead son (played by Eli Tock) who becomes Dan’s devil’s advocate. Tock has all of the wonderful mannerisms and attitudes of a teenager, and can carry off the kind of wisdom and self-questioning we appreciate in a best friend (though it was a little hard to hear him and his wonderful lines).

Dan is contacted by an old love, Candice (Patty Bonnell) and a new reality hits Dan as he is told that he has a 28 year-old daughter with Candice. Bonnell plays the woman who has remained single and aloof for 30 years very well. She has poise, self-confidence and an air of distance.

Dan reaches out to his daughter, Julie (Kiki Abba). Neither is very sure what this late life connection means. It is painful to witness their struggle to find meaning in this connection. Abba is an amazing actor! She has studied her character and speaks convincingly as Julie, the Army veteran and helicopter pilot.

As a result of Dan’s instant journey through parenthood, it brings him closer to his wife. They find a commonality that heals the rift that previously stood between then, and the play comes full circle.

The simplicity of the set leaves room for the material to shine. The direction of John Ruppeck is clear and effective.

The theme for the evening: We are all interconnected. We affect each other in the smallest ways. And in very big ways. And Washington State has an embarrassment of talented playwrights. Thanks to a very dedicated group of volunteers and minimally paid theater-lovers at Burien Little Theatre, we get to appreciate these riches!

For your chance to play critic, or simply constructive editor, after each play the audience is invited to give their opinions and ask questions of the director and playwright. The talk-backs provide playwrights with fresh ideas, valuable comments, and honest audience response.

Here are photos from the festival courtesy Michael Brunk:

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

The Bill and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival continues at BLT through May 26, and you can print our exclusive Coupon below:

Click image to print Coupon.

Through May 26, Burien Little Theatre’s (BLT) Festival offers 4 weekends of new shows. Pay just $10 to see a performance of two plays — a one-act followed by a full-length. The one-act Bottom Line is paired with the full-length Undiscovered Places May 3-12. The one-act 17B is paired with the full-length Parsing Race May 17-26.

After each play is performed, audience members are invited to give their opinions and ask questions of the director and playwright. These talk-backs provide playwrights with fresh ideas, valuable comments, and honest audience response.

Festival sponsors include the new film The Maury Island Incident, Mark Restaurant & Bar, 4Culture King County Lodging Tax and City of Burien.

Staged performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are just $10 and include 2 shows.

Shows are recommended for ages 13 and older due to occasional language or mature subject matter. The Festival is sponsored by the City of Burien and Mark Restaurant & Bar.

For tickets and information, go to www.burienlittletheatre.org or call 206-242-5180.

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