Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Audiences Get Plenty to Ponder ; Festival's 6 Productions Offer Diversity of Life

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Audiences Get Plenty to Ponder ; Festival's 6 Productions Offer Diversity of Life

Article excerpt

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - From business collaborations to domestic partnerships, from factual figures to legendary fictions and from life to death and the hereafter, the 38th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays presents audiences with plenty to ponder. Most of the plays in this year's festival manage that with imagination, thoughtfulness and intensity.

Over its six-week run, the festival, which concludes Sunday, has progressively unveiled four new full-length plays, a collaborative work in progress and a collection of short scenes by five playwrights, presented by the apprentice company at Actors Theatre of Louisville, whose 50-year anniversary coincides with its 38th season hosting the Humana Festival.

All of them played in repertory on Actors Theatre's three stages last weekend, and three 10-minute plays will premiere the final two days of the festival.

'BROWNSVILLE SONG (B-SIDE FOR TRAY)'

Of the full-length works, "brownsville song (b-side for tray)" packs the most dramatic wallop.

Kimber Lee's play opens with an angry Lena lamenting her grandson's death, vowing that Tray will not be remembered as one more son of the ghetto killed in the same repeating cycle of violence that took his father.

Director Meredith McDonough's five-member makes good on that vow, going back in time to deliver a probing, engaging and vitally moving portrait of a young man who manages in 17 years to leave a living legacy of openness, understanding and forgiveness for his grandmother, his little sister and alcoholic stepmother who abandoned the siblings after their father's death.

'PARTNERS'

In "Partners," playwright Dorothy Fortenberry uses quick, sharp humor to deconstruct and redefine the play's title, from collaborations in a business venture to the responsibilities of a friendship to the promises and expectations for those in traditional marriages and in same-sex unions.

The play follows the evolving relationships between best friends Clare and Ezra as they attempt to raise the money to launch their own food truck business. A surprise, secret windfall for one of them changes the dynamics for their friendship, their business plans and their relationships with their significant others in ways nobody could have anticipated.

Director Lila Neugebauer's four-member cast delivers an entertaining, probing and provocative dissection of the meaning of partnership.

'THE CHRISTIANS'

Lucas Hnath tackles critical questions of faith, conscience and commerce in "The Christians."

The play opens in a triumphant moment on the sumptuous stage of the prosperous megachurch that Pastor started up 20 years earlier in a storefront space. Over the decades the church has amassed a congregation of thousands who meet in a mortgage-free edifice that houses a cavernous worship hall with offices, classrooms, a coffee bar and a baptismal "as big as a swimming pool. …

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