Watching SHIFT Theatre’s 1-Act lineup was like sampling every doughnut from a Tim Horton’s box. Although all five plays had similar underlying themes of self-acceptance and a yearning to be understood, each short story could not have been more different.
The lineup began with a piece written and performed by Studio 58 grad Jennica Grienke. This Time I Get What I Want was the most interactive of the five and was as charming as it was relatable. Grienke created a casual atmosphere as she told her life struggles onstage, making the whole experience similar to a catch-up coffee date with your one friend that seems to have the world against her.
The Merchant of Showboat, written by Jason Sherman and directed by Kaylin Metchie, took the audience out of Grienke’s playful mood and into a serious debate about racism. Two characters argued over whether a play that would be considered offensive to black people should be shown. Credit is due for the amount of intensity and emotion the actors portrayed, especially without even once looking at each other. However, it was disappointing that the play ended without a solution.
Next was Desire(e), a heartbreaking story about the search for self-purpose, written by Scott Button and directed by Evan Frayne. This one-act told the story of a girl who believed her only talent in life was child bearing. She had many children for other people, but not one for herself. A notably powerful metaphor of the girl’s talent was referred to as a glass of water in the desert that everyone took from but nobody replenished.
Then came the PKD Workshow, written by Daniel O’Shea. The actors explained that workshow meant the play was still a work in progress and they were performing now to get a better sense of an audience. It would have been beneficial if they had also explained a bit more about the story they were trying to portray, which was based on a revolutionary moment experienced by the science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The whole sci-fi profoundness of the play went a bit over my head. There were many times in the performance where I was questioning what was meant as part of the show and what was not, which was confusing but perhaps that was the whole point.
Finally there was The After After Party (Waiting for Gordo). This hilarious act written and performed by two Studio 58 grads Katey Hoffman and Cheyenne Mabberley, was the greatest way to close the show. The tale of two drunk girls searching for an after after-party, but really searching for the correct perception of themselves and each other, evoked real laughs from the audience. The girls struggled with their desire to be popular but their need to be different, as well as the typical party girl problems, like peeing on bushes and losing a shoe. The chemistry between the two actresses was special in the way they fed off each other’s energy. These are the type of girls who could entertain for hours just by being best friends.
All in all, this year’s SHIFT 1-Act Festival put forward a well-balanced collection of short stories, each giving the audience just enough to ponder or laugh about, before moving on to the next doughnut.
The Festival continues until June 21, get your tickets here.