Let me explain.
The Echo 10 is a group of eleven 10-minute plays. They are bundled into two groups, A and B. I was in a play in Group B. And before you think, um, hey, how can she review a show she’s in? I can’t. Last night when I went to the show, it was the first time I’d met the other actors in those shows, even those in my group. We were all little pockets of drama unto ourselves.
The Echo 10 project started with the Echo Theatre’s board putting a call out for 10-minute plays. Last night after Group A’s plays were through, the actors and some of the directors had a question and answer session with the audience members. (And I’m sad to say that for Group A’s performances, there were a sorry 17 people in the seats. More on this later.)
Jeff Blake, Echo’s Artistic Director, revealed that this project received 70 script submissions! That’s impressive! A group of six people read the scripts and chose the ones that they felt were most possible to produce, with the criteria being how much money they would cost to produce, how many actors the piece needed, and the appropriateness of the work for this community. They chose 18 plays, but 7 of them didn’t end up being performed. Some of them lost actors, directors, or both, which is a shame. If those plays were as good as what I saw last night, they deserve an audience.
Group A was my part to review. Here’s what the lineup looked like.
First: Missed Connections, written by Marj Oneill-Butler, and starring Melanie Stone Thomason and Jared Leo Lynton.
This show was adorable. Both actors are startlingly appropriate for their roles as they are both talented and beautiful. The show had lots of laughs, ran smoothly, and was an amazing beginning for the show. The play was quirky, fun, and very current.
Second: A Shared Life, written and directed by Chase Ramsey, starring Cherielyn Julander and Taylor Eliason.
I will be honest here. I’m not sure how I made it through this play. Do NOT let this deter you from coming to see this production! I’m only saying that these two actors squeezed every inch of realism in their performances, the joys, the heartbreaking sadness as they “aged” from young love to old age and beyond. My son asked Ellison how he brought so much to his character, who experiences tragic loss. Ellison said he watched his mother lose a child and took that feeling and used it in his character development. Both actors were flawless.
Third: Lucy Dreaming, written by Stacey Lane, directed by Hailey Nebeker, and starring Carolyn Hartvigsen and Melanie Stone Thomason.
This play was painfully interesting as I, too, have trouble falling asleep. I’ve been through what was portrayed onstage, more or less. This was a fascinating piece and both actors did a great job, working in sync.
Fourth: The Society, written by Omar Hansen, directed by Daniel Riggs, starring Scott Parkin and Adam White.
This is a funny little piece that has as many layers as you’d like to give it. I loved the actors’ performances, but the play itself was a little dry. Both actors had great physical movement, but they were blocked so they faced the center, showing their full backs to the side audiences. I’d like to have seen them more open.
Fifth: The Pros and Cons of Sexual Harrassment, written by James Best, directed by J.L. Blaine, and starring Cherielyn Julander and Patrick Newman.
This was great. Tons of physical comedy, tight script, perfect timing. And we heard later they got this together in two days. Uber bravos for this! One of the highlights of the entire evening.
In this part of the show, there is also an exhibition piece written by a seven-year-old. It has running, laughing, and adults dressed as kids dressed up as bugs. Adorable!
Review of Group B, by Caden Mustoe
First: The Sum of Your Experience, written by Trace Crawford, directed by Brian Higgins and starring Michael Fairbanks and Michael Solarez.
It was an interesting plotline and I liked it because it made me reflect on my life, the sum of my experiences. The tech was something new for the Echo 10 project, but it didn’t seem as necessary and it may have even distracted from the show’s message. It was the most “experimental” in nature. Both actors did a fine job, but a particular nod to Solarez, who played the man who was mugged. His physicality and voice portrayed the progression that character went through.
Second: Adam and Eve, written by Davie Morrison, directed by Christopher Sherwood, and starring Paige Guthrie and Mont Connell.
It was a different take on the Adam and Eve stories I’ve seen in that it follows the story of after they get kicked out of Paradise. There are parts that are quite funny. I liked to see how stereotypical behaviors that we take for granted are new for this couple. Lots of laughs for this show, but at times the timing seemed a little uneven. Connell is in two plays and this was his strongest performance.
Third: More Than a Dog, written by Kate Haderlie, directed by Patrick Newman, and staring Claire Hanson and Kris Paries.
This play seemed a little dry to me. The characters did go through some hard times, but I admit, I didn’t feel very connected to them. I needed more of an “intro” so I could invest in them. The actors did a good job, though, and the play was enjoyable.
Fourth: Trenchmen, directed by Hailey Nebeker, starring Adam White, Greg Benson, Kyle Baugh, and Mont Connell.
Most of the actors in this show were in others and this wasn’t their best performances. However, I loved the props and costumes, and the sound effects for this show were awesome.
Fifth: Hope as a Leak, written by James Arrington, directed by Margaret Poppin, starring Shawn Saunders, Belinda Purdam, and Jennifer Leigh-Mustoe
I am abstaining from reviewing this one as my mother was in it. No favoritism at Front Row Reviewers Utah here! But thanks, Mom, for bringing me to the show!
Sixth: The Fork, written and directed by Dennis Agle and Ken Agle, starting Christian Busath, David Smith, and Mark Berrett.
This was by far my favorite one. I am struggling to find anything wrong with this play. The costumes, the copious amounts of set pieces and props, including a remarkably huge meatball, the fantastic rapport between the actors – all of it was magnificent. I’d love to see this play performed at high schools (like Maple Mountain, where I go, hint hint.) This show had so many laughs. (Note from Jennifer: As I sat backstage, I kept wondering, what are they doing out there?) It had a wonderful balance between scripted lines and physical comedy that made this so entertaining.
All the 10-minute plays were perfect in that they were concentrated enough to be understandable and freestanding – not too much information so the play was chaotic, but not so little that they were boring. The costumes were all great, and all the plays’ set up and take down were quick and unobtrusive.
The Echo Theater is a delightful space with enough room for a good amount of patrons, but still small enough to be cozy.
Both Jennifer and Caden enjoyed this production and are grateful for this opportunity.
145 N University, Provo
Tickets: $7.00 for one performance,$10.00 for both
Playing August 16-17 at 7:00 PM and 9:15 PM with a period for questions after each performance group. The top four plays (voted by audience members) will perform on Sat, August 18 @ 7:00 PM.