Women In Shorts at Working Stage

During the transition between the first and second play of this six-play collection, Women in Shorts some latecomers shuffled into the theatre to find a seat. Not soon enough. Joanna Miles had already started her scene and with a look of confusion she stopped the show and told the person in the booth that she was starting from the top.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

That statement sums up, to a large degree, the production as a whole. It’s confusing, perplexing, and something you wouldn’t expect to see an Emmy-winning actress struggle with.

Each play is approximately 10-15 minutes long, and each was written by a different member of the Actors Studio (West), of which Ms. Miles is a long-time member. The subjects range from an actor with AIDS (Park Strangers) to homelessness (Magic Rabbit), from divorce (Divorces R Us) to war (Ladies of the State).

As compelling as these playlets may be, they often meander, filling their pages with small talk and banter and leaving little time left over to make much of an impact on the audience. Ms. Miles is joined by Louise Davis in portraying the pair of characters of each play and the actresses do the best they can with what they’re given. Several times both of them seemed uncomfortable with aspects of their various roles. It leaves one to wonder, if both writers and actors are members of the same group, why did the plays sometimes feel as if they were written for different performers?

Only in the last play, “Ladies of the State,” do they feel completely in their element. Perhaps it helped that that particular writer is Ms. Miles’ son, Miles Brandman.

Scenic transitions are handled easily in that each play takes place in a park. The set, by Thomas Meleck, consists of a pleasant outdoor setting with trees and a generic city background and two benches down stage. The transitions from one play to the next are swift and effortless and costumes (by Betty P Madden) are simple with just enough variety to set up the milieu of each play.

The evening abounds in good direction – there are different helmers for each of the six playlets. Veteran TV director Asaad Kelada is joined by five others, each with considerable success in film and television. However a coherent, unifying voice would have helped bring structure to the evening.

It’s a shame, for the concept for Women in Shorts is a good one – showcasing a veteran Emmy-winning actress still in the prime of her career. She has wisely surrounded herself by talented artists from within the Studio, but such insularity might have argued for a few more workshops and public tastings to make sure the group recipe worked.

Overall there are just too many cooks in this kitchen.

Performances through March 20 at Working Stage Theatre, 1516 N. Gardner, West Hollywood. For tickets and info, call 800-838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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