Recommended **** When I went to Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th Young Playwrights Festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After I saw the three winning plays written by high school students, I was totally in awe! I give the Young Playwrights 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. Opening night was capped with an award recognition. The winners, Myka Buck of Kenwood Academy, Brian Hayes of Taft High School and Keauna Pierce of Lane Tech, each received a cash award as well as a plaque.
The cast – Chris Acevedo, Chris Cinereski, Will Kiley, Shadana Patterson, Erica Pezza, Danielle Rennalls, Brenann Stacker and Eric Gerard Walter – appear in a variety of roles.
The first play, “Our Little Secret”, by Myka Beck, is a beautiful coming out story, told from a slightly different perspective. A high school senior, Tommy (Rennalls) lives with her single mother, Tracey (Patterson), who is so busy working, she rarely has time to actually talk to her daughter.
Tracey knows that Tommy’s best friend, Chrissie (Stacker), is taking her girlfriend to the prom, but she doesn’t know that Tommy even has a girlfriend, much less that she’s taking her to the prom. Tommy’s dad, Thomas (Cinereski), is in jail, but he knows about Tommy’s prom plans. Meanwhile, Tracey bought a prom dress for Tommy, who hasn’t figured out how to tell her about Onya (Pezza).
The second play, “The Adventures of FeRb”, is one of the most creative plays I’ve seen in a long time. Playwright Brian Hayes said he had a random idea about using the periodic table in his script and decided to go with it. The central character in his play is FeRb (Acevedo), who is quick to say that his name is a combination of the chemical elements iron and rhodium.
The very geeky FeRb, who has some interesting quirks to his personality, is really looking forward to his freshman year in high school where he’s sure he’ll make lots of friends. It doesn’t matter which clique he approaches – the Goth kids, the Break Dance kids, the Nerds – Bradly (Walter) rules! By the way, I loved the way Walters, who had an injured knee, incorporated his crutches into his role.
When FeRb suggested a series of challenges for school leadership, Bradly agreed. Bradly’s first choice, of course, was sports, which FeRb called his kryptonite. There is a totally unexpected twist at the end. “The Adventures of FeRb” had some very funny, interesting and very creative.
The final play, “A Cup of Souls and One Grim Reaper, Please” isn’t just another grim reaper story. This is a very cute story of a grim reaper, Dave (Cinereski), who doesn’t want the job. On his very first assignment, retrieving Jackie’s (Patterson) soul, he let her talk him into watching movies instead.
A couple unfriendly Demons (Pezza and Acevedo) drag him off to hell where the Devil (Kiley) threatens him with eternal torture and damnation if he doesn’t do his job. Soon after, when a pair of Angels (Walter & Stacker) came to see him, he admitted he didn’t want to be a Reaper, his dad had signed him up. The Angels offer to plead his case to God (Rennalls), who might allow him to change jobs.
The 29th Young Playwrights Festival runs through January 23rd at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago. Please note: theatre entrance is around the corner at Aberdeen & May Streets. Running time is a little over 90 minutes, no intermission. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; with one Sunday performance January 17th at 3:00. Tickets range from $18-$30. 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 Young Playwrights Festival.