UNLV’s short plays make for exciting night

Three of the six original one-acts by Master of Fine Arts candidates in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ 10-Minute Play Festival are gems, while one has possibilities, and nearly all contain scatterings of outstanding acting. I don’t know that I’ve seen in the past dozen years a more exciting evening of “barebones” theater.

Things get off to a terrific start with Jeremiah Munsey’s funny, touching and very Vegas-y “A Duel of Kings.” Two crime investigators, one young (Lisa Ferris), one experienced and cynical (Gail K. Romero), take a look at the bodies of what appear to be Elvis impersonators (Robert Burgess and Geo Nikols) who have apparently shot each other.

The corpses sit at the corner of Flamingo and Koval — an intersection, the characters tell us, made immortal by the Tupac Shakur murder. How the pair really were killed, and the surprising nature of the men’s relationship, is the play’s thrust.

It’s a unique plot, well-acted. Munsey’s dialogue is rich in wit and observation, while Mandy Peters delivers the goods with just the right lightly somber touch.

Laura Neubauer’s “Wet Desert” is a Mr. Bean-ish look at a chance encounter between a research-obsessed beekeeper (Elisabeth Bokhoven) and a neurotically precise picnicker (Brooks Asher). The script, for all its enjoyable nonsense, has plenty of soul. And director Scott McGee miraculously avoids making the broad comedy stupid by getting honest, endearing performances.

Neil Haven’s “Odd Ducks” is a beautifully realized satire about the fakery of Sin City. Phil (Clif Yada) is a web-footed bird, who performs in Bellagio’s Lake Como. He yearns for deeper meaning in his life.

Spencer Rowe, as his friend and fellow performer, does a mean imitation of a Jewish comic in the Catskills, while Robert Hamilton provides a hilarious turn as a fowl visitor who’s just landed from Minnesota. Director Aaron Tuttle gives the script’s smart conception the precise, vaudevillian flavor it needs.

Elizabeth Leavitt’s “The Loyals,” directed by Jason Palmer, has a lovely seedling of an idea: A groupie (Rachel Lanyi) tries to get past a security guard (the charmingly awkward Josh Bradford) to see her favorite performer.

She doesn’t think she’s pretty. He thinks he’s a dork. They find a connection, but things don’t end up the way you’d expect. The ending and a good hunk of the dialogue is poignant. But the more Leavitt explains her characters, the less real they seem to be.

The two remaining plays should be shredded and forgotten.

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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