In its 22nd year, the Young Playwrights Festival continues to provide a polished, professional showcase for aspiring writers. This year, the top-flight treatment benefits a trio of well-crafted, compelling pieces.
Travis Baker’s “Thick” delicately examines the effects of a teenager’s suicide on the kids left behind. The central character, Patrick, played guilelessly by the willowy Billy Wheelan, struggles with the insensitivity of his peers and his feelings of responsibility over the tragedy.
Accompanied by his more left-brained friend Johnny (a confident perf from Geoffrey Molloy), Patrick visits the spot where a boy hanged himself from a tree branch. Discussing accountability and larger issues, the two debate whether to cut down the tree. The area has become a stomping ground for kids drinking Budweiser and seeking the boy’s ghost.
Baker handles the potentially cliched subject matter in a graceful, mature manner, coming at it from the outside in. The tidy yet poignant moral concerns the need to actively practice compassion.
Halley Feiffer’s absurdist “Easter Candy” is a charming riff on the idea of adoring someone to the point of wanting to eat them up. Two best friends, Munker and Annie (T. Cat Ford and Carol Halstead, embracing the ridiculous), sit on a park bench dressed like human Easter eggs, hair piled atop their head and colorful, candy-filled baskets on their laps. Munker eventually confesses she’s planning to make a meal of her friend — but tries to sell her on the complimentary side of the plot: It’s only because of how delightful and delicious she finds her. The skill of the actors and distinct choices from director Richard Caliban bring Feiffer’s creative idea to delightful life.
The most structurally and thematically complex play, Caitlin Montanye Parrish’s “The View From Tall,” centers on a precocious high school senior whose love affair with her English teacher has been discovered. Justine (the superb Jen Drohan) has been ordered to see a thera-pist — the buttoned-up, 30-year-old Dr. Douglas Cecil (Jonathan Sale). She keeps him at arm’s length with her acerbic wit and fierce intelli-gence. Ultimately, the doctor loses his temper and boundaries are crossed on both sides. When things settle, the two begin a friendship and Dr. Doug turns from repressed shrink to a boyish lonelyheart. To no one’s surprise, least of all Justine’s alcoholic, party-girl sister Paula (Jennifer Ikeda), the relationship soon turns romantic.
Parrish does a fine job of fashioning a complete world with only three characters and smoothly handles events spanning several months. Various themes — the importance of self-preservation, the legitimacy of social boundaries — are neatly woven together. Concerns over unreal-istic plot turns (such as the school appointing an attractive male therapist roughly the age of Justine’s lover) don’t linger. Director Brett W. Reynolds keeps the action compelling, emphasizing Parish’s dynamic language.