Starting Playfest off with energy and excitement was Maria Connors’s original play, “Nothing Out Of The Extraordinary.” Directed by Samson Martin, the story begins with a young couple breaking up. Colleen played by Aisling Lynch, and Sam played by Maggie Barron establish the dynamics of their relationship within the first few minutes of the show. Like much of the story, the beginning hinges a lot on character dynamics and humor. This strategy works well, and helps the audience become invested in these two characters. By just watching the first scene of the play alone, you could definitely imagine an alternate story without paranormal activity, strictly focusing Colleen and Sam’s relationship. It does have to be said however, without the other principal cast members, the show would not be the wild adventure of love, fear, and self discovery that it quickly becomes.
While arguing in their apartment, Colleen quickly discovers that Sam is hiding something from her. She later realizes that something is a Ghost. The Ghost played by Mollie McDonald, is a stand out act in the show. One of the best parts of Mollie’s performance is her reliance upon the inherent campiness of the whole ordeal. McDonald gives an exaggerated and out of the ordinary performance that left audience members captivated. Much to Colleen’s dismay, it is unearthed that Sam was accidentally responsible for summoning the Ghost into their apartment. While the details are being fully revealed, Colleen and Sam are visited by yet another quirky guest. When Penny played by Hazel Odell, visits Colleen and Sam’s apartment, she quickly witnesses the paranormal visitor as well. Throughout her performance, Penny brings a lot of levity and quick witted humor to some of the show’s more dramatic moments. One of the best things about Odell’s portrayal of Penny, is her bold embracement of her character’s inner awkwardness. A lot of the best moments of the show are Penny’s sporadic and goofy interactions with her next door neighbor, and crush Oliver.
This brings us to the middle of the show. Two of the biggest laugh out loud characters in the play, Oliver and Madame Zelda, are introduced at the halfway point. Once Colleen, Sam, and Penny all agree to find a way to remove the Ghost from Colleen’s apartment, they enlist the help of their nextdoor neighbor Oliver, and his goofy Aunt, Madame Zelda. Oliver played by Will Lerberg, captures the shy yet curious personality of his character with a lot of care and subtlety. As the events of the show unfold, the audience quickly discovers that Oliver and Penny have feelings for one another. Both performers sell the relationship effectively throughout their respective performances.
Madame Zelda played by Alexis Restum, is a standout comedic act in this production. All throughout the play, you find yourself immersed in this self proclaimed paranormal expert, primarily thanks to Restum’s strong comedic timing and mannerisms. Capitalizing on her character’s goofiness and deep understanding of others, Alexis Restum takes a difficult role and makes it work in show stopping ways. Every time Madame Zelda is onstage throughout the production, she really leaves the audience wishing to see more of her character.
One of the best aspects of the show isn’t just the acting, but also the script. Maria Connors invites you into this wacky world, and stabilizes the story not in the absurd, but in the unexpectedly ordinary circumstances of the situation. The play isn’t truly about the paranormal activity within Colleen and Sam’s apartment, it is about their breakup, and the emotional tolls that have come with it. In a fantastic third act twist, it is revealed that the Ghost is simply a manifestation of the strained relationship between Colleen and Sam. The best part of the ending is the message that it drives home. Rather than retread over a familiar cliche of overcoming breakup, Maria Connors instead writes her story into a more daring and unconventional path. By having the two main characters embrace their breakup for the better, Connors takes a big risk with a payoff to it. Realizing that the two have feelings for each other, but aren’t meant to live together, sets up an interesting cliffhanger. It is unknown if Colleen and Sam will ever get back together, or if they will simply remain distant friends. Either way the message is brought full circle. Some people, despite having attraction towards one another, aren’t meant to live together. As life changes so do people, and sometimes the person you knew and loved changes. A big theme of the show revolves around change itself. The play teaches us that change isn’t all good or all bad. Change is just a natural part of life, and the only thing we can do is keep our heads up and move forward.
With a strong debut, this year’s production of Playfest is definitely off to a vigorous start. With “The List”, “In The Dark”, and “Revolving Crotch” finishing off the season, be sure to check out the Little Center Theatre, and come experience the final shows of Playfest this weekend.