Posted Online: April 24, 2013, 10:00 am

New Ground's new plays offer passionate theater

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By Ashley Gomez

Photo:
Lisa Kahn as Mae West and Tom Swenson as James Cagney in Devin Hansen's "The Red Oven," to be performed Friday and Sunday in New Ground Theatre's Playwrights Festival.
Two nights. Eight new one-act plays. Seven local playwrights passionate about the art of theater. It all adds up to one fantastic event that will leave you wanting more.

New Ground Theatre's very own Playwrights Festival -- which opened last weekend -- was a success. This is the first yearthat the company had to split up the shows into two groups. New Ground artistic director Chris Jansen said the company promoted the festival better this year, andmanaged to catch a lot of attention from playwrights in the area.

Last weekend, each script chosen was broughtto life on stage and was greatly worthy of the spotlight. Two of the eight plays (onefrom each group of four) highlight the high-caliber writing and performances that enchanted audiences. The first, from group one, is "The Backfired Message" by Jason Platt and the second, fromgroup two, is "1706 Farnam" by Mary Katherine Gale.

"The Backfired Message" features distressing situations two people face in their lives. Thescene starts with David, played by Navid Attai, casually walking into the office of Jimmy, played byGreg Goetz, who looks at papers brought to him with an expression very unlike his friend's.

It is soon discovered that Jimmy may be next in line for the boot. Later he finds out exactly whathe did wrong when his boss Mr. Glyph, played by Don Hazen, flies off the handle about thenumber- one rule of his fortune cookie company.

Meanwhile, Mary, played by Molly Wilkison,arrives with a flurry of apologies for being late to lunch with her good friend Tommy, played byDon Faust. She confesses her boyfriend had dumped her and falls into a humorous clichéschool-girl sob. She suddenly becomes the spokesperson for the She-Woman Men Haters cluband leaves poor Tommy in an uncomfortable position as she informs the whole restaurant ofthe problem with men.

They attempt to return to normal and carry on with their lunch. Jimmyand David show up to the same restaurant and the play ends with a charming twist of fate thatsuddenly changes everyone's lives. This show is delightfully clever and will put a smile onyour face.

"1706 Farnam" tells the story of a widowed husband who meets the daughter he never knew hislate wife had. Shortly after Becky, played by Alexa Florence, is accused of lying about who shesays she is and is turned away, John, played by Bill Peiffer, generously brings out food for theboth of them to eat while they try to fill in the blanks they never knew existed in their lives.

It turns out that neither of them knew the reason Becky's brother told her to go to John's houseor what she needed to help out with. Their conversation lasts until the conclusion of the playand is filled with such real emotion as the two exchange concerns about life and family that anyperson can relate to.

The bond between the two strangers slowly develops as they begin to piecetogether the puzzle Becky's mother left with them to solve. As the play draws to an end, theaudience will be shocked and touched by the incredible discovery John and Becky make.

The other plays from group one are "Ferguson Payne's Sole Problem" by William Allen Pepper,
"Saying Goodbye" by Dana Moss-Peterson, and "The Return" Dee Canfield; and from grouptwo are "Leap Day" by Dana Moss-Peterson, "Potsdam" by Shea Doyle and "The Red Oven" byDevin Hansen. One group's plays are done one night, and the other on another day.

If you are an aspiring playwright who is interested in having your show brought to life onstage in front of a live audience or a curious soul wanting to give it a go, you can find moreinformation about the Playwrights Festival at newgroundtheatre.org or email Chris Jansenat cljansen@hotmail.com.

She is hopeful for next year and expects another great turnout with allof the talent the Q-C has to offer.




If you go

-- What: New Ground Theatre Playwrights Festival
-- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday for group one plays, and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. for group two.
-- Where: Village Theatre, 2113 E. 11th St., Village of East Davenport.
-- Tickets: $18 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors (55+), available at 563-326-7529. If you are interested in attending both performances, admission for the first is good for the second.