Pink Banana Theatre Co’s One Act Festival, Higher Education, drew its bow last night with a six act show aimed at funny bones, soft-spots, tear ducts (well maybe eye-balls), and family jewels. Although turning its cheek from more serious drama created by traditional theatre, some arises amidst the sketch comedy with which Higher Education bats your ears. Staying on theme, re-enacted school house shenanigans rotate in and out of view on the carousel stage, written, directed and performed by some of Milwaukee’s most promising young comedic talent.
Abound from start to finish, commentary, conflict, absurdity, slap-schticks, droll, and sarcastic burns, pack Pink Banana’s production. Class of 2011’s collective consciousnesses of pre-pubescent, college and early professional life dynamics added to well placed exaggeration, and flare for the ridiculous, make a pretty entertaining concoction irresistible for those with a taste for being entertained. In the process, Higher Learning provides a much needed outlet since laughing at kids in real life makes you jerk.
Writer’s Megan McGee (The Grade and Portuguese) and Sammi Ditloff (The Dilemma) delivered tightly worded, stand-out material directed by Kevin Wleklinski (The Grade) and Dana Gustafson (The Dilemma). The Grade (performed by Marion Araujo, Ashlea Woodley, Alix Lahren, and Ditloff) mocks two underachieving students’ very contrasting attempts to convince their frustrated Profs to increase their final grade at semester-end. Portuguese (performed by Lahren) sheds light on the changing landscape of college instruction, not withstanding regressing to use of “non-human substitutes”.
In The Dilemma, two college buddies, played by Rob Mass and Michael Black, take a social media decision so far over the top that Black enters a trance state where he utters Shakespeare while talking-out the problem, to the chagrin of Mass. By sketch end, it’s easy to forget why high school graduates go to college.
Charles Sommer’s Sound of One Loaf Baking, directed by Eleni Sauvageau, although a tad campy offers sitcom quality timing and genuine humor. The Baker family owns a bakery and papa Baker (Howie Magner) tries to convince teen daughter Juliana Baker (Megan Kaminsky) to keep the tradition going. Through her protests a revelation occurs when the Baking Buddha (Joaquin Rodriguez) delivers baking-inspired wisdom, while his son (Tim Braun) and Juliana’s angsty friend (Eilen Dunphy) meddle.
Reader’s Pick for Express Milwaukee’s best actress in 2010, Beth Lewinski gives an attention-keeping performance in Allison Gruber’s nicely written but otherwise difficult script Guess Who Died? (dir. by Alan Piotrowitcz), supported by Mandy Marcucilli and Amie Lynn Losi. Georgia (Lewinski) and Rose (Marcucilli) graduated the same English program and now live together strained, lovers on the outs. Georgia’s intimate and professional life flashes before the audiences eye’s as her stories of work, play and romance provide a glimpse behind the scenes of Georgia’s public and internal personas.
Michael Black gives a repertory season’s worth of method as a supporting player in Guess Who Died?, The Dilemma and The Cookie (written by Rich Orloff, dir. Rebecca Segal), a little doohickey about two trailer-park-dwelling parents (Karina Lathrop and Kris Puddicombe) visiting their son James (Rob Mass) in jail for murder. A twisted power-seeking Lawyer (Kelly Coffey) tries to impress a likely-story on James to get him off.
A gentle warning, Pink Banana takes the liberty to incorporate a good deal of vulgarity both verbal and non-verbal in certain acts. So don’t bring your 3rd grader or refined high culture sensibilities. Overall, Higher Learning brings well done comic relief to an otherwise bi-polar Spring.