The Springboard Theatre Company launched its third annual 24-hour Play Festival this past Saturday in their new stage space at the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church. This take gives the participants a unique challenge of writing, directing and performing a show in a 24-hour time span.
As in past years, Springboard drew on DePaul talent to participate in the festival. Five writers were brought in on 11:30p.m. to begin the process, writing the shows until 5:30 a.m. the following morning.
“Then we met the directors, tasked the shows and then came (to the church) around 6-6:30a.m. to meet the actors and workshop it,” said Michael Philips, one of the writers. “Once we did the stage directions around 9-9:30a.m., we moved over to Levan to do some more practicing. We came back (to the church) around 4:30p.m. to get our final draft and then we came out for the showcase.”
The actors already auditioned for the festival, but didn’t know what show they would be in until after the process started. This year, the process ended up lasting a full 24-hours, where as in previous years there was a short break in between the writing on Friday night and when the actors came in. The result of the process is the five writers, directors, stage managers and stage hands, plus 20 actors, performed five shows, 20-30 minutes long that went from 7:30p.m. until about 10p.m..
The first show was “Wouldn’t It be Nice” written by Mel Sanchez, who has written for all three 24-hour fests. The play centered around a baby sitter trying to convince the 11-year-old she looks after to take her to the Beach Boys Beach Party Extravaganza sponsored by BP, as he won tickets from the radio station. This comedy had the repeating joke of saying the entire shows name whenever it was mentioned, including the sponsor, which would be immediately followed by a boat horn that brought laughs to the audience every time. There were several weird side plots, such as the kid suddenly mentioning his parents getting divorced or him possibly having a relationship with the sitter, but the show shows self-awareness in pointing out its flaws with references to the time constraints it was made under.
“Once in a Blue Moon” was another comedy that tells the story of what happens when a stranger with an eye patch wakes you up at 3:43 a.m. and says that the package you just received could destroy the world. The mysterious man was written and performed hilariously, making the idea of keeping him in your house believable. Later, an evil government agent is introduced, who was a bit in your face with a few jokes but had an entertaining back story about working at Trader Joes. The story wrapped up well and ended with some great improv by the actors after a mistimed black out.
If you wanted to know what happened to Humpty Dumpty 20 years after the fall, “Eggcellent Insight” gives one possible response. Humpty, since changed his name to Clarence, is going through a crisis as he feels his life has been all bad luck after that famous fall. He meets his old high school mate, Gretel (of “Hansel and Gretel”) and thinks Hansel pushed him off and seeks to find an answer. The first drama of the night was an interesting change of pace and it is enjoyable to see characters we are familiar with set in a different time.
Continuing the drama path, “Tap Water Drinking” told the story of four “friends” in an apartment without power, trying to sort out what to do with one of them who cheated on another. This display featured an entertaining performance by Lou Bisio as Lucky, the comedic relief who is never entirely sure what is happening. There were several awkward silences where it seems lines may have been forgotten, but it never lingered too long. The most interesting part of it was the staging. The room was supposed to be dark, so the actors are often not looking at each other, but there was also an interesting lack of movement.
The final show, titled “A Very Nice Place,” features the main character waking up in an alternate earth were everyone is overly nice and must find her way back home. A great mix of comedy and drama, this one featured entertaining performances all the way around, a hilarious random musical number and a good twist ending.
The shows are not perfect, but part of the fun in the festival comes in the understanding that everyone you are watching is running on little sleep and has done everything in such a short period of time. Even through the mistakes the shows are entertaining. If one is not to your liking, it will never stick around too long and with all the variety offered, one if not several of the shows will be worth your time. And for just $5, it’s worth it.