The time passes a lot faster that you might expect. Every hour, there are five new plays, each in a different author's voice, produced by a different theatre company with a unique cast (though there is some overlap--my friend Bob Murphy was in three Marathon plays).
There is, as you would expect, usually a pretty big mix of plays, some that I like and some that I don't, a couple favorites and a couple dogs. I would say that this year seemed to be the strongest set of plays I can remember. There were no plays or productions that I thought were absolutely terrible (and let's face it, in 50 plays, you expect something that just won't sit right), and there was a stretch from 2pm - 5pm, that I thought was the best stretch of ten-minute plays I'd seen strung together for a long time, just winner after winner.
Some of my favorite plays of the day included:
- Slugger by Terrence Kidd about an oddly upbeat, slightly crazed woman, with desire for a little payback. It featured a fantastic performance by Jessica Webb.
- Rick Parks' Birdbaths, "Twilight" and Other Sundry Items, which I'd seen before at the T Plays, was just as delightful in this subsequent production.
- Trust Fall by Steve Lewis, was zany and bright and a provided great spark of energy to start the third hour. Brain surgery with a plastic knife has never been so funny. Director Vincent Ularich got stellar performances by two of my favorite Boston actors, Becca Lewis and Bob Murphy.
- Speaking of Boston actors, Michael Ennis' play, Park N' Ride, got a scene stealing performance from Marie Polizzano, who you might remember from the Huntington's Cirlce, Mirror, Transformation (as well as strong performances from Barlow Adamson and Maureen Keiller).
- My daughter and I both had great fondness for the only one-woman show of the evening, Camberwell House by Amelia Roper.
- In A Tall Order, Sheri Wilner's very sharp play, about dating and the possible consequences of ordering from the menu on a date, got another terrific performance from Jessica Webb.
- I was pleased to see strong physical humor in Christopher Lockheardt's play, Stuck, produced by New Exhibition Room, both Alejandro Simoes and Hannah Husband were great fun to watch. They're a company that really interests me now that I've seen a couple of their shows.
- I'm a sucker for math plays or plays about mathematicians, so Erin Striff's Ms. Connections made me happy.
Oh, yeah, I had a play in there, too. Escape to Wonderland was in the 6-7pm hour, and we got vibrant performances from Meredith Stypinski and Allison Vanouse. I saw them on Friday night, in Hotel Cassiopeia, and could definitely see how their work together on that play helped boost their work in my play--just by virtue of already knowing each other so well. Director Jeff Mosser did a great job of directing the action so it was clear and energetic. I couldn't have asked for a better production of the play. (And hope to work with this bunch of folks again soon.)
This Marathon offered a few less than the usual number of Red Sox plays and references, though there were still a few, of course. We had a lot of plays this year about aging and, as might be expected, a fair number about dating and first meetings. Not very many political plays, which is too bad, because I'm a fan of political theatre, though they're not always easy to manage in a festival setting.
Though the scripts and productions are always of high quality, I always long for a better use of the theatrical space. (See my web post from 2009--An Open Challenge to Playwrights Writing for the Marathon.) The super constricted tech time and set change set creates high barriers to interesting design for Marathon shows, but I'm always dying to see more shows making use of movement, dance, color, sound, music. We only had one musical this year, plus two other plays in which music played a role in the narrative. I'd love to see more productions finding ways to fully inhabit the space available and giving audiences something bright and interesting to watch.
Thanks, as always, to Kate, Marc, Jake, Michael, and everyone at BPT and the BCA for keeping this important theatrical event not just going, but thriving. I was grateful to be part of it this year and hope to be involved again. Can't wait to see BTM XIV next year!