Female playwrights, directors and actresses are the exciting focus in a celebratory evening of six one acts at the Underground, "What She Said."
While the number of men in the casts (five) and the number of men in the opening night audience (eight) were clearly outnumbered, the eclectic mix of short shows collectively made for an entertaining evening for all.
The six plays were chosen from over 250 entries submitted for the Underground's festival. The playwrights of the selected scripts are from Connecticut, Iowa and California, with three from New York.
Actress Emilie LaBonte and director Mackenzie McCullum come from the Twin Cities with "Check Your Ticket" by Charissa Menefee. With one of the strongest performances of the night, LaBonte plays Brenda, a tough cookie who performs stand-up comedy style, telling about the night when her life takes an astonishing turn with a winning lottery ticket. LaBonte hysterically captures the roller-coaster ride of what life is like for those who are suddenly thrown in the spotlight.
In "The Night Sky," by Eugenie Carabatsos, directed by Anika Thompson, local favorites Mary Fox and Zachary Stofer play two of the more overlooked stars in the sky. Their attempts to sparkle, shine and dazzle are funny, sad and sublimely romantic.
Cheryl Skafte wore a couple hats for the evening, directing "First, Do No Harm" and playing a kooky waitress in "Deanna and Paul." As an actress, Skafte always manages to use a complete bag of acting tools, including her facial expressions, body language and vocal inflections. Her portrayal of the lonely Deanna who tries to win over her sad-sack customer Paul, played by Luke Sharman, shows Skafte's range in this mature performance.
Playwright Dagney Kerr came from California to see the premiere of her show "Deanna and Paul." The play is also slated to be performed in Los Angeles next month.
For "But Wait There's More," Liz Woodworth and the cast are from Bayfield. Another of the acting standouts of the night, actress Leslie Bailey, gives a hysterical performance as a woman who cannot resist buying every product pitched to her. As a hoarder who has a basement filled with things she doesn't need and probably will never use, Bailey elicits some of the night's biggest laughs.
The most thought-provoking show of the night, "Webster's Bitch," written by Jacqueline Bircher, and directed by Sara Marie Briggs Sorenson, takes place in a dictionary editors' room. Their interpretation of the word "bitch" gets them into some hot water and causes an intense debate among the women and the only man in the room. The power of words to hurt and the difference between the perceptions of people about the impact of a single word ended the evening with a show that was causing some heated discussion of audience members on their way out the door.
Kate Horvath, director of "Deanna and Paul," and the evening's MC, announced that plans are already in the works to bring back the festival for a third year. Here's hoping the festival will have a local playwright as one of next year's selected one acts.
If You Go
What: "What She Said"
Where: The Underground Theatre (Lower Level at the Depot)
When: May 24-26 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: At www.duluthunderground.org or at (218) 733-7555