Silver Spring Stage’s One-Act Festival returns with a bang

A captivating compilation of five new shows by local artists, from fun-filled and poignant to thought-provoking.

The Silver Spring Stage 2023 One-Act Festival opened with a bang this past weekend and is playing through next weekend only, Friday to Sunday to October 1. Suspended since 2019, the Festival is returning to a “new normal,” somewhat scaled back from earlier years, which since 1969 offered multiple productions over numerous weekends. From what I saw opening weekend, the “new normal” of five plays over two weekends is just as exciting, with local performers, directors, and unpublished playwrights offering new works. This Festival is a captivating compilation of shows, from fun-filled and poignant to thought-provoking and everything in between. Here are highlights from each.

Banana Brains by Em German, directed by Yvonne Paretzky
Helen Cheng Mao (alternating in the role with Imaan Khan) plays May, who is desperately seeking employment as a crime site cleaner. Writer Em German is the Martha Stewart of gory scenes and an energetic Mao as May makes it clear that she’s ready to scrub out the gore to the max for a fun opener. Features Imaan Khan (9/21, 9/23, 9/29,10/1) and Helen Cheng Mao (9/22, 9/24, 9/30) as May, and Brett Murray as Interviewer.

Helen Cheng Mao and Brett Murray in ‘Banana Brains.’ Photo by Hannah Katzen.

Funeral for the Cat by B.G. Craig, directed by Vanessa Markowitz
Funeral for the Cat was the only weak link in the bunch for me, and it wasn’t because of the acting. Everyone hit their marks and then some relaying the significance of grief, loss, acceptance, family love, and tolerance for bizarre requests. Mitzie the cat has provided joy and companionship to Grandma Judy over the years since her late husband brought it home as a kitten. So now it’s time to pay respects to Mitzie’s passage, right? The daughter and granddaughter do their best, along with the soothing tones of a minister. But fondling the decomposing cat pet curled on the coffee table was just a bit much for me. Features Marla Harper, Cecily Norman, Charlotte Richesson, and Emily Ray.

A Snowball’s Chance by Jeff Dunne, directed by Karen Fleming
In this adorable piece, a brother and sister reflect on their childhoods while cleaning out the attic of their childhood house. When the brother’s friend stops over and connects with the sister, new discoveries emerge that don’t mesh with old memories. The piece nicely explores how one’s point of view can completely blindside what the true reality might be. Original music composed by Patrick Hughes. Features Maura Suilebhan, Matthew Dantas-McCutcheon, Andrew Greenleaf.

i didn’t think you’d be so unhappy by Shara Feit, directed by Sophia Menconi
Bat Mitzvah party motivators kvetch about their lives while taking a break in the alley. They are soon joined by an effervescent and confident Zophia Shamapande as “Bat Mitzvah Girl,” who stirs up the pot sharing anxiety and adolescent turmoil of her own. Directed with zest and hilarity by Menconi, with a thumping party beat in the background, this piece is packed with fun and budding self-awareness. Features Layla Nabavi, Jenny Oberholtzer, and Zophia Shamapande.

Five Grains of Rice by Arindam Ghosh, directed by Arindam Ghosh
Fine Grains of Rice, the last play, is the longest and had the audience sitting on the edges of their seats as the events unfolded. A young couple seems happily married, they banter back and forth; they have very different personalities, but they’re at ease in their relationship. He’s a well-known and -regarded scientist and they live comfortably in a posh high rise with a spectacular view of the city below, possibly New Delhi shown via creative projections on a back screen. The husband’s former girlfriend from their college days finds her way into the mix and connects jauntily with the wife. The girlfriend seems to have incriminating knowledge about the husband’s early professional life that he has never shared with his wife, and maybe even hidden from himself. Once a wager is made, there is no turning back for any of them. This is a fascinating study of human nature and self-deception, expertly expressed by the actors and directed by Ghosh, who also wrote and performed in this tour de force offering. Also features Shampa Basu and Aditi Bhattacharya.

TOP: Arindam Ghosh and Shampa Basu in ‘Five Grains of Rice; Maura Suilebhan and Andrew Greenleaf in ‘A Snowball’s Chance.’ ABOVE: Emily Ray, Charlotte Richesson, Marla Harper, and Cecily Norman in ‘Funeral for the Cat.’ Photos by Hannah Katzen.

The artistry for all of the Festival renditions was exceptional. The shows held together beautifully and were well organized with actors assisting with multiple set changes. Each show has its own designated cast, yet they moved seamlessly around each other in synchronized movement  — quite a feat. Lighting by Don Slater enhanced the messages throughout the shows as did sound by Rich Frangiamore, with music selections that fit each segment, such as Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” at intermission, a refreshing touch.

The Silver Spring Stage 2023 One-Act Festival offers a bounty of quality entertainment and is a stunning reminder of the extensive talent and artistry right here in the metro region.

Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

The Silver Spring Stage 2023 One-Act Festival runs over two weekends September 22 to October 1, 2023, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at the Silver Spring Stage, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD. Purchase tickets ($26, with discounts for seniors and students) online. For more information call (301) 593-6036, visit the website, or email [email protected].

COVID Safety: Masks are required per the website, but optional in current practice.

The Silver Spring Stage 2023 One-Act Festival
Producer – Seth Ghitelman, Stage Manager – Arooba Nadeem, Lighting Designer – Don Slater, Sound Engineer – Rich Frangiamore


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