A Presentation of One-Act Plays
Santa Paula Theatre Center
Thru June 19, 2017
Those who survived the 1970’s will remember the liberation of the Kellogg’s Variety Pack. Hungry morning risers were no longer beholden to just one choice; every day brought one of eight different tastes, until one eventually became a new favorite.
Playzapalooza organizer John McKinley has delivered eight solid one-act plays to the boards of the historic Santa Paula Theatre, and local audiences might find it hard to choose just one favorite.
First up are Allen Noel and L.J. Stevens in “Not Enough.” The onstage couple deliver with the speed and charm of the original Bickersons, if Don Ameche and Francis Langford could’ve done freeze-frame and spoken directly to their audience. The technique is a reminder that we’re witnessing just another day in the life of a couple finding their way, and that finding one’s way in a relationship is a task that never leaves the to-do list.
Next up are Erin Hollander and Stephen Santos in “Melancholy is My BFF.” They’re not sad or depressed or maudlin, but rather the type of minds who gravitate toward the heavy moments in life. Hollander is particularly charming as Uber-driving Eliza, a woman whose melancholy leads her to drive endlessly, eventually meeting equally melancholy-addicted bartender Brendan.
“Psyche With an E” is a showcase for the boundless energy of Anthony Baldonado, who provides a charmingly spastic insight to one man’s male psyche (Sergio Arias) as he tries to overcome his self-doubt (and knocking libido) to talk to a cute woman (Bethany Archambault) at an engagement party. This is one Psyche who’s going to use every trick in the box to help his man get his girl.
One of Playzapalooza’s most charming and reaffirming works is “Independence Day,” the tale of Elizabeth (Jennifer Skutley), who has come to perform the ritual of accompanying her ailing mother (Sindy McKay) to the city’s annual fireworks display. Playwright Rhea Maccallum’s mother/daughter exchange is so well-written and performed that audiences might have a hard time believing these two are only actors and not actually related.
After a short break in the action Playzapalooza comes roaring back with “The Twinkie Defense.” The moment LJ Stevens appears from the upper stage right door and flashes a knockout smile, even the most cynical critic is put on notice. Her delightful one-woman dialogue is among the most likable performances in recent years, and the very reason theatre-goers spend money on tickets. Stevens oozes with the type of charm and daring that every party should have as a guest.
It isn’t often we get to see a show in which a woman who doesn’t speak and barely moves steals our attention, but Nancy Hullihan manages to do so in “The Dancing Lessons.” Her daughter Catherine (Leslie AnnRenee) draws random objects from a box to try and stir her mother’s memory, the recollections of which we see played out with charm and authenticity upstage by Samantha Winters and Dylan Pitts. As Catherine continues to look and hope for a sign, any sign, that her mother is still in there, we share her relief when it comes.
“Wishes” finds Scott (Anthony Baldonado) standing in a city fountain, pant cuffs rolled up, picking up coins and clutching them close to his chest. When his girlfriend Rebecca (Jennifer Skutley) comes along and catches him, he tries to encourage her to join him (he’s brought her hip-waders in the car) in embracing the one, flukish talent Scott possesses. He wishes she would understand that his unusual ability isn’t a negative in their relationship, but something that is simply too interesting to let go of.
Playzapalooza’s final piece, “Pop Star,” finds young sensation Torin (Dylan Pitts) back in his manager’s office after a world-wide tour. Despite all the success and a new-found love for Civil War battlefields, his ‘team’ of Ben and Suzie (Jake Mailey and Nancy Hullihan) are about to encourage him to do something drastic, dangerous, and downright illegal in order to stay on the public’s radar. And if he says ‘no thanks?’ Hey don’t tell Torin – but the industry will always find another face to fill the public’s eye.
If one considers Playzapalooza the Kellogg’s Variety Pack of theatre, audiences will find a good balance of the sweet and the wholesome, the things that are good for you and the things – like a sugary yellow, Twinkie, that you just can’t resist.
Santa Paula Theatre Center
125 South 7th Street, Santa Paula, CA
Thru June 19, 2017
Showtimes: Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2:30pm
Tickets $20 adults, students/seniors $18
Ticket info: 805-525-4645 or online at: