Stage

The Double Feature Show Is Short But Could Be Sweeter

Micah Gooding,  Paige Thomas, Allen Titel and Jairo Suarez in Wedding Bash
Micah Gooding, Paige Thomas, Allen Titel and Jairo Suarez in Wedding Bash Photo by Pin Lim
After almost two years bereft of in-person performance thanks to COVID, it seems our joy at being back in the theater comes with a caveat. Don’t make the show too long.

Whether it’s a collective fragile attention span forged from those endless months staying home with nothing to do, or the need to be entertained quickly for fear of not cramming in all that we’ve missed, reasonable swiftness is the cry from critics and audiences alike.

Kudos then to Firecracker Productions for heeding the call with The Double Feature Show, an evening of two one-act plays that gets us in and out the door, including intermission, in just about an hour.

Wedding Bash, a comedy written by actor couple Andrew Leeds and Lindsey Kraft, unloads brutal honesty about a couple’s destination wedding. Burden of Proof, by Cris Eli Blak, deals with a black lawyer tasked with defending a white supremacist accused of murdering a black boy.

Apart from the obvious, and somewhat jarring contrast of these two shows, the unfortunate issue of the evening is that the short works never materialize into anything fulfilling.

Wedding Bash, directed by Kathleen Brown, levels a terrific premise. Recently married couple, Lonnie (Allen Titel) and Dana (Micah Obregon) have just returned from their destination wedding in Sedona. A wedding they feel was one for the ages.

But when they host a get-together with friends Edi (Paige Thomas) and Alan (Jairo Suarez), they get an escalating earful about how un-fabulous the whole affair actually was.

Money and selfishness are the issues in this comic play, and anyone who's been forced to shell out thousands of dollars to attend a friend's destination wedding will easily relate. Especially if the wedding in question not only wasn't worth the expense but was done on the cheap.

It's a shame then that the absurdist build-up of this show (who tells people the hard truths about their wedding?) doesn't come to life. Mostly because it wasn’t played broadly enough.

Brown never gets her cast to launch in, so instead, we get pauses, hesitation, and awkward physical humor that takes the wind out of the play’s sails. It’s a shame. It’s a cute, if slight play, that could have given us a much-needed giggle.

Director Alric Davis seems to have the opposite issue with Burden of Proof. Or at least for part of the show.
Opening the play is Lakeith (an excellent Terrance Simon), a high school teacher lecturing on the difference between perception and reality. He’s the kind of teacher we all wished we had. Smart, cool, challenging, charismatic, enthused. When he tasks his class with reading Native Son, Richard Wright’s 1940 novel about systemic racism, we as the audience want to rush out and read or re-read the book on his say so.

Back at home, we meet his wife Rita (Shundranika Ross), a lawyer whose white firm has asked her to defend a white man accused of lynching a black boy. It’s her job, she says. She has to. To further her career.

Lakeith isn’t having it, and the arguments ensue. Sort of. While Blak’s play nicely sets up the moral issue, he never really lets his characters chew into the implications, motivations, or reservations of Rita's decision.

And it’s here that Davis doesn’t help things along by having Ross portray Rita somewhat broadly. There's hammy rolling of eyes, face scrunching, and shoving chips in her mouth when she wants to avoid her husband's questions. The tone feels off set against Blak's subject matter and Lakeith's indignation.

As the play shifts back and forth between Lakeith lecturing at school (a metaphor for his internal grapplings) and the couple’s discussion of Rita’s case, the whole things fizzle out and harmony is restored in a narrative manner that feels unearned. As though the tension was never really an issue.

Once again, we’re given a play that hooks us quickly, only to fade away as things progress for one reason or another. Potential is there, but even short plays can miss that mark.

Two side notes, the production takes place at Garza Studios, an attractive modern rehearsal/event space, perfect for shows such as these. Smaller companies take note.

Also, there is no mask mandate in place for The Double Feature Show, something to consider before attending.

The Double Feature Show continues through February 26 at Garza Studios 241 N Milby. For tickets, visit Firecrackerproductions.org. $20.
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Jessica Goldman was the theater critic for CBC Radio in Calgary prior to joining the Houston Press team. Her work has also appeared in American Theatre Magazine, Globe and Mail and Alberta Views. Jessica is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
Contact: Jessica Goldman