Since moving to our community slightly over two years ago I am finally getting back into writing and involving myself into music and local theatre.
Succulents is my first foray into theatre criticism in the hi desert and I could not ask for a better opportunity to apply words of praise to a few pieces of original writing and spirited performances.
I have always felt that small intimate theatre productions are by far the most enjoyable for me. I've experienced Broadway, attended lavish productions at the Kennedy Center and the Shakespeare Theatre but my true love is fledgling theatre company productions in small black box spaces. Succulents is such a production.
First, a bit about the space. The Palms is a local bar, restaurant and community meeting place in Wonder Valley, California. Theatre performances take place in a large room behind the bar. Limitations of such a space exist of course. The bar noise is omnipresent but manageable and not all seating faces the stage. That is where the limitations end and the intimacy shines. The sense of community and positive vibes overtake any limitations that exist and the audience becomes part of the production in a meaningful way.
"Succulents" is a series of short pieces all written, directed and performed by local writers, actors and directors.
The evening started with poignant tunes by Steve Jensen and his piano and served as a perfect pairing for the evening's theatre performances.
"Woman of a Certain Age -- Dating" was first up, a smart, funny piece about the complexities and quirkiness of dating later in life by Catherine Gurbaxani. The age old dilemma of how to find satisfying relationships in a superficial world always makes for good comic relief and usually, as in this case, also brings introspective analysis on the human condition. Catherine nailed it!
"Match", my favorite piece of the evening explores a couple with a date in the works that is in a session with a relationship counselor before the actual first date . Oh, the possibilities of such a scenario! The absurdities of such a premise make for a lively back and forth between two middle aged singles and a relationship counselor. It's no surprise of course that once they just put aside the pressures of a first date they realize all the worry and stress was silly and useless. Kevin Bone shined in this one as did Celene de Miranda.
"The First Trip" by Christopher Schoonover was a look back at a mother and son road trip. The complexities of the relationship and stressors of road trips in general make for an interesting thought piece. How to deal with an aging parent is something no one is ever prepared for but a flat on a dark desert highway provides an opportunity for the narrator to see the value of simple human kindness we all many times take for granted.
No Hard Feelings Improv Group brought a comic interlude ala whose line is it anyway. I need to experience far more of them in the future.
"Women of a Certain Age -- The Doctors Office" was a quirky look at not only the frustrating experience of the doctor's office waiting room but also being a care giver for an aging parent all while juggling the demands of divorce and dating. Celene de Miranda was simply flawless in her performance.
Truth Hurts is part deux of the First Trip and serves as a reminder of why we should always cherish any time with a loved one no matter how frustrating it might seem at the time because life can change with the blink of an eye. Christopher Schoonover is someone I would love to hear more from.
"The Play With No Actors" written and directed by Kevin Bone was a cold script reading that turns into murder as the director comically pursues her dream of performing ALL the parts. This piece was certainly the most difficult to pull off in the confined space but turned out splendidly.
What I came away with from my evening with"Succulents" was small intimate theatre will continue to be my favorite form of theatre performance. I look forward to more from these talented folks and the potential they possess.
Celene de Miranda
Wonder Valley, California