If you had a pear where one quarter was juicy and delicious, one eighth was full of worm holes and the rest was crunchy and a bit under ripe, would you eat the pear? That is the dilemma when going to see the Pear Theatre’s annual collection of eight 15-minute short plays, Pear Slices 2018.
If I may continue with the metaphor, two or three of the eight short plays are juicy pear slices. These sections are funny, thoughtful and worth the price of admission all on their own. However the other sections are a bit under-ripe, the scripts aren’t as polished as they could be and the stories either aren’t enough to keep the audience’s attention for 15 minutes or they really need longer to convey their point. And then there’s one short play just doesn’t work.
Pear Slices is a great forum where the Pear Theatre fosters new work and audiences can see a bunch of short plays in one sitting. As someone who makes sure to see all the Oscar-nominated short films every year, this appeals to me. The good news is, if the play is bad, it’s only 15 minutes long. The bad news is that, if the show is good, it’s only 15 minutes long.
The question a potential audience member has to ask is “Am I willing to sit through five mediocre shows for three good ones?” Or, if you will, “Am I willing to eat this whole pear?”
Personally, I liked it, but it’s not a format that’s going to resonate with everyone. So here’s a brief review of all eight short plays, so that you can make the decision for yourself.
“Stuck in the Middle” by Paul Braverman is the surprise gem of the show. You might not think that three hot dogs debating politics and religion could be funny, deep and insightful, but you would be wrong. Braverman uses his hot-dog characters to deliver an unexpectedly insightful play about conservative, liberal and moderate views on religion, politics and climate change. He uses clever allegories and a knife-sharp wit to make this story the star of the show.
“Eagles in Heaven” by Barry Slater is the most emotionally resonant section of the show. The scene takes place on a mountaintop where a teenager and her grandfather are finishing up a backpacking trip. This piece deals with complex emotions of love and loss in an unexpectedly nuanced way. Despite the 15-minute time limit, the piece does not feel rushed, nor does it skip over important emotional beats. It’s an impressively thoughtful piece that deals with heavy topics without feeling weighed down by them.
“Duelin’ For Keeps” by Evan Kokkila-Schumacher is a fun, upbeat end to the show. While definitely not as thought provoking as some of the other plays, this one depicts an Old West-style gunfight. Buck, the outlaw king, is just trying to shoot his romantic rival, Ward, who is frankly more concerned about Buck’s constant use of double negatives. It’s a fun concept, updating Western movie stereotypes, and it’s a great note on which to end the show.
“An Afternoon Tango” by Barbara Anderson follows an impressively oblivious couple as they sit and have lunch with a homeless woman. They do not realize she is homeless, however, and proceed to talk about themselves and how much they don’t want homeless people in their neighborhood. This is an interesting piece looking at modern society’s views on the less fortunate, but it feels like the start to a longer story rather than a stand-alone play as it is now.
“Walk the Plank” by Leah Halper is the first short play. It is about two parents trying to throw their 4-year-old son an elaborate birthday party while dealing with unexpected bad news. It’s certainly not the strongest of the eight plays, but it makes some valid, if sensationalized points about the future of healthcare and personal interactions.
“A Mind Full of Venom” by Bridgette Dutta Portman is a historical fiction piece depicting a conversation between Galileo and one of his biggest detractors. This piece has the slowest pace of the eight, but it raises some important points through the lens of these historic figures.
“Housemaster 3000” by Ross Peter Nelson is a comedic scene set in the not-so-distant future where our houses are run by voice-controlled computers. It’s cute and funny, but not particularly memorable compared to some of the other plays in this this compilation.
“Helping Out Mrs. G” by Steve Koppman is the aforementioned pear slice filled with wormholes. I have no doubt that this play could be made into a decent short story. However as a play, it never reached the thoughtfulness or emotional impact for which it was striving. The characters seem shoved into their roles. A thirty-something mother acts as if she’s seventy and speaks to her son’s friend about love and siblings as if he were eight and not sixteen. The characters do not seem genuine. Furthermore connections in the script are too spelled out, seeming to insult the intelligence of both the characters and the audience. There’s a good play in there somewhere, but it needs more heart and more time to mature.
Only you can decide if this show is for you. But if you’re still not sure, I suggest trying out Pear Slices. The show is a great opportunity to check out and support local playwrights. And who knows? One of these short plays might become a great full-length show in the future.
Pear Slices 2018 is playing at the Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View, now through May 20, 2018. The show runs about two hours not including one intermission. Tickets range from $10 to $35 with discounts available for students and seniors.
Photos courtesy of Michael Craig and the Pear Theatre