For the seventh year, the students of Moorpark College's theater arts department are presenting their annual festival of one-act plays.
Some hit, most miss. But the show--which concludes this weekend--is a bit of an adventure. To watch the various performances, spectators hike from the campus lawn to the Forum theater to the cafeteria to a somewhat remote campfire and back. Individual performances range in length from a few minutes to an hour. The entire show lasts nearly four hours, including food breaks.
Two of the five plays and both of the dances were written and choreographed by Moorpark College students; the other three one-acts by professional playwrights. But all are directed and acted by students.
Interestingly, it's the all-student efforts that are most worth watching; the outside material is stiff and archaic.
Nancy Beverly's "Attack of the Moral Fuzzies" reminds one of those '60s intellectual hippie game-show sketches that the Firesign Theater used to specialize in. Charles Busch's "Psycho Beach Party" is a parody of the "Gidget" movies, for Pete's sake. And Annie Evans' all-too-serious study of female bonding, "Ghost Stories," finds three longtime friends reuniting at a camp-out. They make s'mores for the first time since Girl Scouts, search for Higher Truths about themselves, and toss about four-letter words with all the enthusiasm expected of young people using them in public for the first time. One keeps hoping for a bear to leap into the scene and devour the whole whining trio.
More interesting are student Julia C. Peacock's two pieces, and what are loosely categorized as dances.
Peacock's "A Modern Romance" directly follows "Attack of the Moral Fuzzies," and begins with Deborah Inman and Christopher Liebe making small talk about the work before launching into Peacock's real theme, intersexuality. In a nicely acted, generally lighthearted discussion, we at least discover what she is looking for.
In what is quite a contrast, Peacock's "The Writer" finds stories created by the title character, played by Al Scheurmann, coming to life with interesting consequences.
The acting throughout the pieces is generally very broad comedy, with the exception of "A Modern Romance" and "Ghost Stories," in which the characters behave more naturally. There are a couple of nice performances in the otherwise leaden "Psycho Beach Party": the cute-as-a-bug Denise Laine--switching personalities as beach bunny, would-be surfer Chicklett and a couple of darker selves--Deborah Inman as her mother, and Wendell Still as surfing guru Kanaka.
The two "dances" might be more accurately described under the all-encompassing term "performance art." Twelve participants, who call themselves "Filet Femme Fatale," "Wannabe Wed" and the ever-hilarious "Ben Dover," follow six couples from initial romance through their weddings to life a couple of years down the road; some of it's pretty amusing. Anne Marie Coolbaugh, Cathy Foley and Lisa Lambert assume responsibility for choreography.
Even more performance-arty are the members of the S.W.A.T. team, "created and directed by Andra White," who pop up throughout the evening, changing scenery, guiding the audience from one stage to another, and creating quasi-military mayhem before indulging in a finale that can be spotted from a couple of miles up the Simi Valley Freeway. The sequence, as viewed Sunday night, demonstrates the value of rehearsal, of which this bunch could have used more.
About half the time is spent outdoors, so bring something warm. With a fair amount of walking involved, the show is definitely not wheelchair accessible. Admission includes a chicken and tri-tip barbecue dinner, coffee and dessert.
* WHERE AND WHEN
"The One-Act Play Festival and Dinner" plays tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. on the Moorpark College campus, 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark. Tickets, including dinner, are $15, $10 for students. For tickets or information call 378-1458.