Highly Recommended **** The first time I went to see the Young Playwrights Festival, I didn’t know what to expect. That first visit was wonderful, so I was sure this one should be just as good. Guess what – it was more than good – it blew me away! Although each of the four winning plays had a common theme, ‘assumptions’, they couldn’t have been more diverse. I give Pegasus Theatre Chicago and the 30th Young Playwrights Festival 4 Spotlights.
The winning teens didn’t just win a city-wide competition, they got to work with professional directors and actors to workshop and then stage their plays. In addition to having their plays staged, the four winners received a commemorative plaque as well as a cash award presented by Pegasus Artistic Director, Ilesa Duncan.
All the winners were in the audience opening night. They are: “Obsessed” by Alexandra Obert of Lincoln Park High School (teacher, Ahoo Kosari); “Guarding the Princess” by Elyssa Saldana, Whitney Young Magnet High School (teacher, Elizabeth Graf); “Eye See All” by Ricardo Salgado of Lane Tech Academy (teacher, Kirsten Hanson) and “Race to the Finish” by Sejahari Saulter-Villegas of Kenwood Academy (teacher, Nina Williams).
The cast – Alex Brick, Kai Eally, Alex Ireys, Nicole Laurenzi, Quenna Lené Barrett, Ryan Smetana and Christina Ward – appear in a variety of roles.
The first play, “Obsessed” by Alexandra Obert, takes place in a coffee shop somewhere as a nerdy barista (Smetana) and his inner self/ego (Alex Brick) are having a conversation about his inability to connect with girls. When a college coed (Laurenzi) comes in for coffee, and he becomes obsessed with her.
In “Guarding the Princess” by Elyssa Saldana, Eadweard the Dragon (Barrett) guards the Princess (Ward) too well, rejecting all of her potential suitors. When the Princess finds out, she dismisses the heartbroken dragon so she can interview her own suitors.
By the way, Costume Designer Amy Chmeilweski’s dragon costume, complete with a kind of green, pointy nosed, very toothy mask, extra-long fingernails, footwear with built-in claws and a sturdy tail, is wonderful! In fact, all of the costumes are clever.
Just because Jessica (Ward) is paranoid sees conspiracies everywhere doesn’t mean she’s wrong. In “Eye See All” by Ricardo Salgado, she drags her brother (Ealy) along to expose a secret society – with unexpected results.
While the first three plays were all excellent, the final winner is ‘Ready-for-Prime-Time’. One of the Chicago theater companies should recruit Sejahari Saulter-Villegas before he goes off to New York! In “Race to the Finish”, two victims of police brutality (Ealy and Barrett) find themselves competing on a TV game show.
Six finalists received a plaque and a cash award. The Finalists are “Justice” by Eve Doyle, Lane Tech College Prep, teacher, Molly Meacham; “Fade” by Meghaen Mleczek, Whitney Young Magnet High School, teacher, Elizabeth Graf; “Exit Denied” by Marissa Olavarria, Lane Tech College Prep, teacher, Molly Meacham; “No Hero Lives” by Je’Quan Sailes-Irving, Whitney Young Magnet High School, teacher, Elizabeth Graf; “The Lesson” Nigel Telman, University of Chicago Lab School, teacher, Rachel Nielsen and “SHUD-TTER” by Liliana Tirado, Lane Tech College Prep, teacher, Elizabeth Graf.
Ten students, recognized with Honorable Mention plaques: “Not a Romantic Comedy” by Daniella Cruz, John Hancock College Prep, teacher, Lisa Ehrlich-Menard; “The Darkness Within” by Blake Cushman, Lincoln Park High School, teacher, Barton Hanson; “Thin Walls” by Sam Farrell, Taft High School, teacher, Adrienne Carmona; “Premonition” by Agrim Handa, Lane Tech College Prep, teacher, Molly Meacham; “The New Girl” by Jessica Hannsberry, King College Prep, teacher, Krista Wachob; “The Fight for Fight” by Aida Huskic, Lincoln Park High School, teacher, Ahoo Kosari; “Friday Night Texts” by Max Mitchell, Lane Tech College Prep, teacher, Kirsten Hanson, “Blessing in the Storm” by Taylor Moore, Wendell Phillips High School, teacher, Sara Mostad; “Spirit and Blood” by Miara Richards, Providence St. Mel School, teacher, Carolyn Stopka and “It’s Better to Ask Forgiveness” by Brianna Vargas, Whitney Young Magnet High School, teacher, Elizabeth Graf.
Please note: theatre entrance is around the corner at Aberdeen & May Streets. Running time is two hours with an intermission.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; with weekday student matinees.
Tickets range from $18-$30.
Metered street parking is available. Do not park in the lot next to the theater, you will be towed! FYI (866) 811-4111 or www.pegasustheatrechicago.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “30th Young Playwrights Festival”