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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fifth Annual Finnigan’s Festival Energized By New Space, Continues To Be Fresh & Funky!


Brian Walker, Elizabeth Cox & Becky LeCron in the 5th Annual
Finnigan's Festival of Fresh, Funky Fun. Photo by Becky LeCron.

Finnigan’s Festival of Fresh, Funky Fun

Various writers & directors
Reviewed by Carlos Manuel
Entire contents copyright 2012 Carlos Manuel. All rights reserved.


Finnigan Productions proudly opened its run of its fifth annual festival of new 10-minute plays at The Bard’s Town Theatre to an almost sold-out house filled with an enthusiastic audience. To no one’s disappointment, the show is what you would expect it to be: Funky, Fresh, and Fun. 
It’s fun because every piece presented is entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s fresh because every piece on stage is new, and you can tell because some of the writing needs revising. It’s funky because every piece presents characters in strange situations, some completely absurd.
The evening is composed of ten 10-minute plays written by local playwrights and eight “very brief” true stories written by members of the cast. These mini-monologues serve as interludes between each play and are presented during the play’s transitions. I very much liked these “brief stories” because they held the audience’s attention, rather than let it be distracted by the dark stage that was being rearranged for each play.
Compared to prior years, Finnigan has elevated the quality of the production, with a more seamless transitional structure than seen before. Perhaps this is due to the space, which requires all actors to be on ONE single stage rather than divided in two different performing spaces, as previous festivals had been.
There are, however, aspects of the production that do not live up to expectations. Out of the ten presented pieces only four could actually be considered 10-minute plays while the other six should be considered comedic skits. A skit is based on plot, on a series of events, placing characters, most of the time in a ridiculous situation and where the “dramatic action” of the piece centers not on the character but on the situation itself. In contrast a play relies on story, which must have a beginning, middle, and end, allowing characters to become three-dimensional entities with at least one of these characters having a clear dramatic arc from beginning to end. 
It is here, in the lack of true 10-minute plays, where the evening falls short, making me feel as if I was watching a cheesy, low budget “Saturday Night Live” reproduction. Every time a “play” was presented yet it turned out to be a skit, I quickly became restless and annoyed. And when you have to watch six skits during two hours and a half, it sometimes felt like torture.
Luckily, there were four very good 10-minute plays and eight well-written and expertly delivered “mini-monologues” that kept me engaged and interested in the evening. Among the four 10-minute plays, one deserves to be mentioned because it was pure theatre magic, filled with strong writing, a clever story line, and solid characters: Greek Tragedy by Andy Epstein. The other three plays were also good, but to avoid bruised egos, I will simply avoid their titles.
When it comes to the company of actors, the quality of their work ranges from good to excellent: Craig Nolan Highley, Michael Roberts, Corey Long, and Elizabeth Cox were all given an opportunity to stand out. As for the directing, most of the pieces were presented with a clear point of view while others felt as if they were just thrown together at the last minute. (A blackout and a huge scene change in the middle of a piece? Really?) When it comes to costumes, lighting and music, everything seemed to be adequate.
Finnigan’s fifth Festival of Funky, Fresh, Fun was truly funky and fresh. It wasn’t fun all the time, but it was still entertaining. Ironically, I found myself most engaged with the “brief stories” presented during play transitions. These stories—edited, revised, and directed by Tad Chitwood—were funny, sincere, and emotional. If you combined these “brief stories” with the four 10-minute plays, you do have a true evening of theatre, rather than an evening of sketch comedy. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with an evening of sketch comedy. The only inaccuracy here is that Finnigan’s Festival of Funky, Fresh, Fun is supposed to be composed of new 10-minute plays… at least that’s what the program states.    

Finnigan’s Festival of Fresh, Funky Fun
April 5 – 14, 2012

Finnigan Productions
at The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville KY 40204
(502) 749-5275
http://www.finniganbeginagain.com




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