Eight plays that all use a vintage microphone as part of their narrative gave some funny and ironic takes on the device in Weathervane Playhouse’s 8 x 10 Theatrefest held July 13-15 — a precious historical object of the dethroned Tsars in Joe Lauinger’s “The Silver Bullet,” a brandished sword in Barbara Bleier’s “Goodnight, Sweet Prince,” and a tummy massager in Christina Blosco’s “Waiting for Baby.”
Most of the 10-minute-long plays incorporated the microphone for what is was — but made it metaphorically poignant. In Maureen Ann Connelly’s “A Life-Time Warranty,” it was an annoying lifeline as the human body parts shop operator called for organ donors and recipients alike.
As much fun as it became for the audience to see what the playwrights had done with the prop, the real entertainment came in watching the plays and casting ballots for the “audience favorite” as local critics determined first- and second-place winners.
The first place winner was James Caputo’s “The Bingo King.”
Set in a funeral home, we see Mary O’Malley (powerfully played by Jo McGarvey, who also directed) as she sits in mourning for her husband, the bingo caller at a local parlor, when a younger woman (the character of Amy, played with fierce emotion by Rachel Gehlert) enters, obviously distraught. At first the audience believes that both women simply like to attend funeral services. Then we discover more.
Mary, who regularly goes to funeral homes as support to families, is completely alone in her grief. The younger Amy has come from a neighboring hospital in order to avoid “pulling the plug” on her father.
The emotionally charged play ends as the women forge an alliance in the face of death and go off together to the hospital to do the final deed.
Death looms in the second place and “audience favorite” plays as well.
Patricia Cotter, in “Rules of Comedy,” cleverly structures her narrative by those rules — the set up, story, twist, pay-off or punch line. Caroline (played with dead-pan hilarity by Allison Good) comes to see teacher Guy (Justin Edenhofer) because she ostensibly has lost her sense of humor and wants it back.
In a series of offshoots of how she just doesn’t get a joke, we discover her parents have recently died and she is essentially in shock. The couple builds a tenuous relationship (Caroline at first tells Guy she hates his comedy). The pay off — the unlikely pairing of this emotional strung out couple.
The “audience favorite” was the last play of each night, which doesn’t seem like the best spot to be in. But Lina Gallegos’s “How Dick and Jane Fell in Love” turns potential double suicides (extremely well acted by Gerard Neary as Dick and Rachel Gehlert as Jane) into lovers. He is ungodly competitive — even in his agony and despair. The fact that he contains that for her brings them back to a lust for life.
Audience chosen prop for next year: Tennis, anyone? A tennis racket.