UNLV one-act festival a mixed bag

The third of three one-acts presented by students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is the sort of production you hope to discover at a workshop student play festival.

Laura Neubauer’s “Brick” is at times obvious and heavy-handed, but it’s rich in atmosphere, tension and subtext.

The master’s degree candidate pits two very different women, Stevie (Jamie Puckett) and Wanda (Kimberly Kelly), in a tug of war for the affections of Wanda’s child, Bella (Rachel Lanyi). The playwright finds us an entry into this story that easily could have been cold and distant.

Under Michael Tylo’s expert direction, we feel the spell each woman has over the teenager. The actresses create a genuine sense of family. They avoid the possible melodrama in the material by establishing a no-fuss reality base.

There’s potential in Laura Turner’s opener “Luxury,” which has a “Streetcar Named Desire” flavor to it. Our Blanche Du Bois is Jitty (Marilyn Oster Kaufman) who tries to shut out the drabness of her world by constantly buying things she can’t afford. Her practical sister (Jackie Shick) is the one who pays the bills, barely, and she’s got to figure out a way to rein Jitty in.

There’s a poignancy to Jitty, as played by Kaufman, and Turner may have a story in the relationship between the two sisters and the reasons for Jitty’s loneliness.

But Turner throws in a one-dimensional furniture store owner who says all the predictable, villainous things and creates a clash of dramatic styles within the piece (although Kris Pruett achieves an enjoyably relaxed performance as the owner). Douglas Hill’s direction plays into the inconsistencies of style.

Oscar Limon’s “Archaic Friendship” gives us two old female friends (Leigh Anne Crandall and Katie Mazzola) reuniting for the first time in 20 years at the wedding of their children. They have a lot to say about their unresolved past.

Limon’s characters have a habit of overexplaining themselves. I wish he would concentrate on dramatic actions that would get feelings across without explaining the ABCs of it all. He achieves this at one point by having the two women make a loud toast that reveals their hostilities. It’s much more entertaining seeing hostility than analyzing it.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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