by Michael Block
Kicking off the 19th edition of The Black Box New Play Festival 2016, The Gallery Players celebrates a night of works by emerging playwright Brett Epstein. Capturing the scribe's comic tone through big characters, the first weekend of The Black Box New Play Festival is a triple-header of fun.
Beginning the night was a comedy for entertainment insiders entitled Representation. It's a slice of life comedy about the ridiculousness of the business with a long-winded cathartic punch line. Directed by Jesse Marchese, if you got the inside jokes, Representation resonated. If you didn't, then you asked yourself why the crowd was laughing along. Nevertheless, the company played into the pander pattern embracing the battle of breaking down the actors with silly adjustments. Standing out in the bunch was Kyla Walker as auditioner Claire. Walker took the notes in stride and brought out the humor in the juxtaposition.
In the second offering of the night, Fire brought together two cousins and a third wheel boyfriend for a night out in the woods. Also directed by Marchese, Fire was essentially an exploration of the awkward silence. Henry and Max are polar opposite cousins who spend the night trying to acclimate as adults. Only insults and jabs are slung in comedic fashion. As Max, Steven Smith has great comic sensibility that seemed to channel the playwright himself. Smith stole the show, and the entire evening.
Together, the plays brought out the best in Epstein while highlighting the similarities in his writing. The two pieces each brought a non-verbal button. Simply by pairing them up, Fire didn't end satisfactory. Though awkward silence may have been the mission. Marchese brought out the nuances of Epstein's comedic charm while keeping story in the forefront.
The first week of The Gallery Players’ Black Box New Play Festival 2016 was an exciting evening showcasing a fresh talent and a unique voice. If you don't know who Brett Epstein is, you should crawl out from under your rock and get educated. It's a name you'll hear often.