Since 1997, the 14/48 Festival has operated with the same base format: on Thursday night, playwrights are given a theme and need to write a 10 minute play which is due by 8 a.m. Friday morning. Then, directors, designers and actors have to scrap the world premiere together by the first showing at 8 p.m., with a second showing at 10:30 p.m.
14/48 is not for the faint of heart. As the charismatic host reminds the audience at the beginning of the show, the “premiere” and “closing” of these tiny plays are functionally dress- rehearsals. Actors will inevitably drop or flub lines, the set might fall apart, and the entire affair runs on stress.
Watching a band introduce each of the seven plays and provide stellar musical accompaniment that cannot be more than a few hours old is nothing short of inspiring. The musicians are magnetic and excited—the backbone of the show that ties each disparate skit together.
“Dueling Futures” depicts two intensely awkward people going on a blind date. Their immensely stilted flirtations are interrupted by two rival intergalactic soldiers from the future, sent to interrupt them to prevent a time war. The two space warriors battle across the stage and among the audience until their subjects get away. Now that there is no battle to be fought, the two realize that they are the ones who should be on a date.
Andrew Shanks, who played one of the main characters in the play, is one of the best things about Seattle Theater right now. He is paradoxically suave and nerdy at the same time. He knows how to slip into a character while retaining the characteristics of his comedic style that make his performances pop.
Rap Battle Acura
“Rap Battle Acura” features a car salesman in Lynwood attempting to sell a mother a family-friendly SUV. The employees of this car dealership work for commission and the client wants them to battle each other for her business. Two salespeople then hilariously rap about automotive features to a hollering audience.
While it didn’t necessarily come together as well as the playwright, director and cast may have wanted it to, the energy and sarcasm of the event brought it to the finish line with enough laughs to start the show off on a good foot.
“Dig” is about an ailing woman with a husband suffering from some form of dementia reminiscing about how they met, and whether the past has any meaning.
Sentimental, beautiful and slightly unorganized, this tiny play should be developed into a full project. The actor’s chemistry is flirty and fun while retaining a powerful emotional connection. Thespians Alissa Cattabriga and Kaleb Kerr convincingly bring their characters to life at different stages of their lives. The juxtaposition of past and present and the presentation of the devastating weakness of human memory is melancholic and complex. Whether it was the cast, director Jose Amador, or playwright Scot Auguston, something went incredibly right here.
Duffel Bag With a Crown
It is difficult to say what this play is about. This play is disorienting, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. While “Rap Battle Acura” and “Dueling Futures” create fun gimmicks to throw some good gags onto, and “Dig” takes a risk that pays off with a punch of emotion, “Duffel” jumps into some very ambitious territory and doesn’t quite know to do with itself. The ideas and performances are top-notch, but the script doesn’t stick the landing.
Peace Up, A-Town Down
This play features horny goldfish and Usher’s corpse being resurrected by an eclectic mortician. Does it make more sense when staged live than when explained? Nope! Does it entertain? Kind of!
“House Call” features a woman who is no longer young and beautiful lamenting her status to her butler, and attempting to remedy her face with the help of a charlatan. The entire play is a vehicle for Kerri Brown-Wooster’s performance as an inconsolable dandy lady, but that is just what the audience wanted. This play lets the actors lavish with their preposterous dialogue, and it is a joy to behold.
You Can’t Take It Back
It is always fun to see some horror hit the stage. The days of going to the play-house to see a gory display came and went over a century ago, but this play shows why terror is still relevant in theater, as a woman attempts to make her way back to her abusive dead wife through a haunted camera. Daring and focused, “Can’t Take It Back” was a great way to cap-off a night at the 14/48 festival.
These performances carry the passion of actors, writers and directors who have had little sleep for 24 hours. In an age in which people can access hundreds of hours of meticulously curated content in seconds, it is refreshing to watch a play that is creative, raw, and messy.
Andru may be reached at [email protected]