Last Monday I attended Episode 2 of “Serials” at Know Theatre. “Serials” is a night of theatre that features six different plays, all being presented in episodic format. They each get 15 minutes each outing and by the end of the summer we will have seen 6 full plays.
Each play had a chance to recap what happened last week and then present 15 more minutes of exposition and character development to varying results. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to grade each episode (and recap)! Here goes nothing.
The night was hosted by Tamara Winters, the new Associate Artistic Director of Know Theatre. She was charming and engaging and made everyone feel welcome. I like her energy.
First up was FLESH DESCENDING, by Chris Wessleman. The recap featured brief dialogue from the pilot and since I saw it I was up to speed however I’m not certain someone brand new would have been drawn in immediately. More of the same hilarity from last time, especially from Strasser who shows her range as a comedic actress more and more. I thought the energy was down this week, but Leah’s intensity was high – especially when she her character was demon-possessed. That was well done!
RECAP: B- THIS EPISODE: B (STRASSER: A)
Next was the quirky comedy, FETUS AND THE GOD by Ben Dudley. Again, the recap didn’t do as good of a job bringing people up to speed as I would have liked – and because it was done via video the audio was hard to hear and understand. Dylan Shelton took over the role of God this week. It took me a minute or two but he won me over. I think Dudley’s awkward charm is what really pulls the piece together and his writing is hilarious. This was an episode full of sound effects, bits about being Rick Rolled and public radio and the crowd roared with laughter multiple times. I look forward to what they do next . . . I just hope they project more so I can hear over the popcorn machine.
RECAP: C THIS EPISODE: A-
The film noir parody, THE LISTENER by Mike Hall, was next and this was by far the best recap of the night. Everyone knew what happened last time (and it even clarified something that I personally was confused about probably due to trying to get a useable cell phone photo to use!). Lisa DeRoberts is full of raw talent and the cybersex bit in the middle of the episode was very funny. The more we get from DeRoberts and Michael Sherman the better. We also were introduced to a new character . . . Edward Snowden, played by Ben Dudley. We’ll see how that goes.
RECAP: A THIS EPISODE: B+
After intermission, we were treated to what I think is my favorite of these plays, SATURDAY THE 14TH by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek. It’s so smart and Nik Pajic and Miranda McGee are perfectly cast. Their chemistry is off the chain and McGee is one of Cincinnati’s best actresses. Her dancing had me giggling hard and I’ve never been a fan of toilet humor, but the story her character tells about… well, let’s just say she accidentally left a surprise in a bag on the kitchen counter after a one-night stand. It was toilet humor, alright, but it was brilliantly written and very very funny.
RECAP: A- THIS EPISODE: A
OTR Improv stepped up and did a very special episode about teen pregnancy and then did it again with a less significant issue. I appreciate that they joined us as they were promoting the National Improv Theatre Festival coming to Over the Rhine in September. Stay tuned for more details on that!
Our next installment was THE FUNERAL by Jon Kovach. Kovach is also a smart writer and – maybe because he’s an actor first and foremost – understands character so well. His actors get to embody real people, which sometimes can cause you to stretch your muscles more than you might think. Jared Earland, who was originally cast as the lead but had a prior commitment last week, took over his role and played it less angsty but just as likable. Tara Williams, one of my favorites, was back as his loving, sometimes overly-caring mother and we were introduced to Cousin Erica (Becca Howell) at the very end of the episode. Grandma is still downstairs, dead, and he’s still refusing to attend the funeral. Will his cousin talk him into it? I like that this is so ordinary; the writing is anything but.
RECAP: B+ THIS EPISODE: A-
Finally, Trey Tatum’s MARS VS. THE ATOM took the stage. For me, this was the weakest of the bunch last week. I had no idea what was going on and if I were grading last week’s installments I would have given this one an incomplete. We didn’t get a proper recap (or if we did, I sure missed it) but since there wasn’t much happening last week, I guess it didn’t matter. This episode was light years better than last time; it felt less sci-fi and more about the people on the stage. Poor Sam Rueff got to speak and show off some of his acting chops and Miranda McGee had more of a featured role which significantly improved things. I hope that director Bridget Leak is working with her actors to slow down their lines; sometimes they speak so quickly its hard to understand what they’re saying. The show was much funnier this week and while I’m still left with more questions than answers, I enjoyed it a lot!
RECAP: Zero THIS EPISODE: B+
So, there you have it. Another fun night of theatre. I saw several new faces in the crowd and there were folks standing again throughout the night appearing that this has been a box office success. Hungerford and his team are taking risks and they are paying off so far. I’m excited to return on July 21st for the next batch of chapters in these unique and interesting shows!
SERIALS plays at Know Theatre again on July 21st. For more information, including ticketing,click here.