“Pear Slices” – A Taste of Something Fresh

Although this is the 14th of the Pear Theatre’s annual showcase of original short plays by members of the Pear Playwrights Guild, seeing it last weekend was my first taste of Pear Slices.  Eight short plays (ten to fifteen minutes each) were directed by Troy Johnson and Robyn Ginsburg Braverman and performed by a consistently strong ensemble of seven actors: Ariel Aronica, Tess Middlebrook, Briana Mitchell, Bryan Moriarty, Kyle Smith, Michael Weiland, and Alison Whismore.

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An entertaining mix of styles and themes, the plays ranged from funny to scary to historic to intense but were all thought-provoking and engaging.  With help from their press release, here is a brief description of the 2017 Pear Slices:

  • For Art’s Sake by Elyce Melmon — the differing perspectives of mother and son, an art historian and a millennial techie, a passionate feeler and a rational thinker. What will happen when a classic work of art finally insists upon the young man’s attention in an unexpected way? Will his neat and tidy viewpoint be utterly undone?
  • Stella Wind by Bridgette Dutta Portman — a spoof on the teen superhero genre that features a high school superhero forbidden by her mother to continue saving the city from evil aliens until her grades improve. Young Stephanie — aka Stella Wind, leader of the Cosmonaut Quartet — will face the greatest struggle of her superpowered existence, convincing her mother that fighting for justice is more important than graduating with a decent GPA.
  • Mirror to Face by Leah Halper — a beloved performer in the Yiddish theatre in 1903 is offered an opportunity to perform on Broadway – but as the hated figure of Shylock. Can he bring humanity to the role, or will audiences simply see his performance confirm their worst prejudices? Meanwhile, his talented daughter has her own theatrical future in mind, one which may not be possible under her father’s watchful eye.
  • Anasazi Breakdown by Douglas Rees — Old ways versus new ways, interdependence versus independence, mythic tradition versus proven science. Set in a desert in 1946, a woman waits by a broken-down car for her sister to return with a charged battery. As she waits, a stranger approaches to help – but his help may be exactly what the sisters don’t need.
  • Deuce Cooper: The Bloomfield Case by Paul Braverman — In a noir send-up set in the 1940s, private detective Deuce Cooper struggles with a case that may or may not prove his career success to date is a fluke. It’s 10:45 p.m., and his new assistant Donna has scheduled meetings at eleven with an informant, a police officer, a client/lover, his mother, all three of his ex-wives, and Donny No-Sleeves who plans to kill him “a lot.” Before the night is over, there will be a double-cross … a triple-cross … and finally, justice will be done.
  • Aboriginal by Susan Jackson —  a look at adoption, based on true stories. A panel of individuals sharing their personal stories and responses to adoption at an International Adoption Symposium at NYU raise a multitude of questions. Why were these particular children up for adoption? Who adopted them, and for what reasons? Were those lives better than the lives they might have been expected to have, otherwise? What of their extended adopted families? And as adults, do they seek out their birth parents? Why or why not?
  • Meantime in Between Time by Leah Halper — Two sisters sort through the remains of their deceased older brother’s life. When a family member lives a life of substance abuse, the resentment of wrongs done can outweigh and overshadow the love that still exists — but sometimes, the remnants of a life lived can finally bring understanding and acceptance to those who have spent too long seeking it.
  • Proposal by Max Gutmann — feminism gets a lighthearted treatment when an independent woman gets wind of her boyfriend’s marriage proposal “ambush” and determines to break the whole thing off for good. While comic in nature, the short piece also raises valid points about the cultural traditions of proposals, and offers at least one modern solution to those offended by them.

(I enjoyed them all but the final two were my personal favorites!)

Briana Mitchell, Ariel Aronica and Bryan Moriarty  in PEAR SLICES

Briana Mitchell, Ariel Aronica and Bryan Moriarty
in PEAR SLICES

From the beginning the Pear has had a commitment to focus on local talent and to help new and emerging playwrights.  The company holds biweekly play-writing sessions of its playwrights development group, the Pear Playwrights Guild, which culminates in this annual showcase Pear Slices, and sometimes leads to full productions, such as the upcoming premiere of Max Gutmann’s What You Will.

Founded in 2002 under the leadership of Artistic Director Diane Tasca,  The Pear’s ongoing commitment to excellence was recognized last year by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle with the Paine Knickerbocker Award, an annual special award for a Bay Area company contributing to the high quality of theatre in the region. Not long ago, Diane Tasca announced that she will be retiring as Artistic Director (See, ‘Pear Theatre Losings Its Impresario’) but she seems to have helped establish a strong and vital company that I hope will endure and grow.

Pear Slices runs Thursdays through Sundays, through May 28. All performances are held at the Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View. Tickets ($10-$35) can be purchased by visiting www.thepear.org or calling (650) 254-1148.

 

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