BY TAMAR NEUMANN: It’s safe to assume that most people don’t think about horror festivals, and creepy-themed plays during the warm summer nights of July, but Gadfly Theatre Productions is hoping you might be up for just that. Their annual one-act Final Frontier Festival has a spooky theme this year. They’ve gathered six one act plays that have horror themes and are performing them in repertory over the next two weekends.
I was able to see three of the six plays. The first, Gone, by Cody Daigle is about two young adults who are faced with the horror that all around them people are disappearing into thin air. The play focuses less on the imminent threat of disappearing and how that seems to be affecting the world and more on the two characters and their own personal journey. While I would have enjoyed a much more suspenseful play, the focus on the two characters did allow the two actors, Kira Pontiff and Denzel Belin to shine. There was minimal set, props, and lighting (I am sure to allow for multiple one-acts in a rented space), but that meant it was that much more important for the actors to draw the audience in and keep their attention. Both Pontiff and Belin were able to do that. Their performances were vibrant, and while the play did seem to go a bit long for a one-act, there were moments when I was grateful I was given the chance to see the range of these two actors.
The other two one acts, Abscission by Eric LaRocca, and Belong Dead by Andrew Rosdail, were unable to maintain the high standards set by Gone. The plot of Abscission was unclear. I could re-state the synopsis given by Gadlfy Theatre on their webpage, but I’ll let you wander out and read that yourself. Unfortunately, for the audience, it was challenging to understand what exactly was going on because it was difficult to hear the actors and to understand the actors. The script was vague—not necessarily a bad choice, but if you have a vague script you must have decisive directing and acting—both of which this show seemed to lack.
Belong Dead was about the Bride of Frankenstein’s monster and her constant desire to escape his continual pursuit. The play is a billed as a Feminist retelling of a woman created for a man, and it’s definitely that. At some points the dialogue is so heavy-handed you want to shout “I get it! Let’s move on.” Perhaps it was because of this challenging dialogue that the actors seemed to struggle. There were many moments when the production felt flat. There was little feeling portrayed by the actors and therefore felt by the audience. This led to a play that felt unfinished.
While a horror festival is a fun idea, this particular festival focuses on a pretty tame type of horror. There are moments of chill in the air, perhaps even an eerie feeling of darkness, but the focus is not on the literal meaning of the word “horror.” Instead the plays have been chosen because they are LGBTQQIA* and female-centric. This leads to some interesting twists on familiar stories, but honestly, I was hoping for little bit more suspense and horror–something really fun and juicy for a warm July night. Instead I got plays that tried too hard and didn’t deliver well enough to stick in my mind as anything worth remembering.
Final Frontier Festival: Horror. July10-19, 2015. Gadfly Theatre Productions at Nimbus Theatre, 1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413. Tickets: $25 per show, $40 festival pass; purchase tickets at gadflytheatre.org or email at email@example.com.