FAIRBANKS — “Short & Sweet” can best be summarized as “theater for the ADD audience.” With eight plays clocking in at 10 minutes each, it’s the perfect antidote for the clock-watchers and squirrel chasers among us. This is not a theatrical experience that goes “on and on,” as a character in one of the eight plays, “Intermission,” says. It’s fast paced and entertaining, and when the curtain closes on the final play, it leaves you wanting more.
The show is a collaboration between Fairbanks Drama Association and Looking Glass Group Theatre, which for 11 years now has produced the annual 8 x 10 Festival, a staged reading of eight 10-minute plays written by Alaska playwrights. “Short and Sweet” features eight of the best plays from the festival but in full theatrical production.
Well, with one caveat.
Those who go to “Short & Sweet” expecting to see elaborate set designs will be surprised to be greeted with a largely empty stage when they enter the theater. That’s because the show uses, and rather well, the black box theater concept. Minus some minimal props, it’s just the actors on the stage.
It’s a lot of different factors to pull together to make for a successful overall production, but Frank Yaska, who is showing maturity as a director with each show he has taken on over the last few years, does it quite well.
It helps that he had some great talent to work with — both in terms of the playwrights and the performers. All of the shows contain some element of humor, some way more so than others, so there is a high level of enjoyment from the get-go. All of the shows have quick pacing and snappy dialogue. Yet, at the same time, each show has a style of its own, indicative of the work of the playwright.
I almost hate to go into too much detail about each one of the shows as there is a surprise element with some of them that you just need to go and see yourself. I particularly enjoyed the plays “10 Minutes” written by Jason Hodges (formerly of Fairbanks) who now lives in Anchorage; “Intermission” by Steve Mitchell of Fairbanks; and the surrealist comedy “Self-Inflicted” by Dawson Moore of Valdez.
Many members of the cast are asked to fulfill multiple roles, with JK Bowne, Dawn Clausen and Kevin Zayas leading the way by appearing in half the shows. It’s an impressive variety of roles. In Bowne’s instance, one moment he is a randy king salmon in D. John McKay’s “Don’t Fence Me In,” and the next he is a beheaded jilted boyfriend in the aforementioned “Self-Inflicted.”
Clausen’s varied performances are equally impressive, and she displays some of the finest acting in the entire production, whether as a grieving widow in Linda Billington’s “The Importance of Ritual” or as a wife annoyed with her husband’s ranting over a play in “Intermission.” Zayas is at his best in “10 Minutes” in his portrayal of a man who just learns that he only has 10 minutes to live.
Other skilled multiple performances are delivered by Nathan Jones, Candice Roberson, Yelena Petkova, and Luke Williams. The stage chemistry among all performers was spot on, and it was easy to tell that everyone was truly enjoying themselves, no matter what role they were filling.
I’m glad to see FDA give Alaska playwrights their moment in the spotlight, and with the collection of plays in “Short & Sweet,” each one presented is fully deserving of it.
“Short & Sweet” runs through Nov. 11 with performances at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. For more information contact FDA at 456-PLAY.
Scott McCrea is a local writer and actor who has reviewed Fairbanks theater for more than 15 years.