Hurricane Season at The Eclectic Company Theatre

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It’s on again! The Eclectic Company Theatre in NoHo is currently staging their sixth annual competition of short plays – Hurricane Season 2009.

The festival showcases the short-list winners of their popular annual one-act play writing competition, where talented playwrights are competing for hundreds of dollars in cash as well as non-cash prizes.  Over a hundred plays were submitted this year and went through a rigorous selection process, albeit with some new rules.

This year, the finalists’ plays have been pre-selected by a jury.  They will compete for cash prizes during the final weekend of the festival, August 21-23.

Prior to that weekend, there are three blocks of plays, each of which will run for two consecutive weekends, and each of which will include one of the Finalists. Non-cash prizes for the playwrights, actors, directors, and overall production will be voted on by the audience, who are asked to rate the three plays in order of preference and hand in their ballot at the conclusion of the evening.

You still have this weekend, August 14–16, to see the plays of Block Three, and all the finalists will be staged the following weekend, August 21-23.

Block Three consists of:

“The Bad Habit,” written by Constance Humphrey Egan and directed by Chelsea Sutton.  A former ballerina who engages in self-mutilation has issues with her overbearing mother. They turn to a spiritual teacher for assistance. It stars: Taylor Ashbrook, Gwen Copeland and Christine Krebsbach.

One Plum

One Plum

“One Plum,” is written by Lisa Leaverton and directed by Levi Packer.  The relationship between Adam and Mary is acted upon by forces of nature of which they are not always aware.  The progress of a blossoming plum becomes a metaphor for their relationship in this surreal romantic drama. It stars: Stephanie Edmonds, Jacob Ortuno, Melissa Baes, Theresa DeVeaux and Beth Ricketson.

“A Picture of A Bee,” is written by Glenn Hergenhahn and directed by Biff Wiff. This is one of the finalists. A pair of rich kids, neglected by their parents and being raised by their butler, enact  mourning rituals for a departed sibling and a dead pet. It stars: Ian Wexler, Dana Amromin and Kerr Seth Lordygan as the stuffy butler.

For me, the best play of the night was “The Bad Habit.” Playwright Constance Humphrey Egan captured the exasperating relationship between a troubled woman and her dominating, garrulous mother so perfectly that at least one audience member was reduced to tears because she found the dialogue hit so true.

The play opens with a scene of Victoria (Christine Krebsbach), a ballerina going through her daily practice routine. Her arms are heavily scarred and it’s obvious the neat slices were self-inflicted. Then, with a non-stop, narcissistic diatribe that’s dripping with irony, her oblivious mother Olivia (Taylor Ashbrook) bursts onto the scene ranting about insensitive and intrusive people. Eventually, her daughter explodes, lamenting to her that she’s “lost and drowning in your inconsequential ramblings.”  The conversation between the pair becomes more intimate and raw when assisted by a spiritual guide as the pair address their relationship and concerns.

The Bad Habit

The Bad Habit

Gwen Copeland as the hippy-dippy Jasmine, their spiritual counselor, was a real treat. Thanks to her comedic performance and exaggerated gestures, she aptly personified one of those ridiculous, douche-y, crusty herbal types that just make you want to laugh out loud. While I would have preferred the scene changes to be far less clumsy and noisy, I enjoyed the emotional gravitas of “The Bad Habit,” and was surprised to find it was not one of the finalists.

The next play was One Plum,” an experimental exercise of dance and poetry but actually pure nonsense. A Greek-style chorus of insects (or some personification of nature – it’s difficult to say exactly what they represented) are clad in shapeless, brown garments with wild hair and expressionistic makeup. Before these three, a man and a woman copulate in the woods, semi-dancing, but mostly writhing on the floor, “sated with moisture and minerals” as the seasons pass. It’s all about nature’s rhythm being out of kilter, as the nature trio warns of “temperatures rising.” Towards the end of this interminable tone poem, the man declaims a long monologue and wanders all over the stage and small auditorium, lit only by a hand-held flashlight. I’m sure I could detect relief in the applause at this play’s conclusion.

Picture of a Bee

Picture of a Bee

After the interval, the third play of the night was one of the pre-determined finalists, “A Picture of a Bee.” In this one-acter, two posh children are enjoying a servant-assisted picnic (talk about taking the ‘rough’ out of ‘roughing it!’) while their devoted butler entertains them with humorous but melancholy tales of his impoverished childhood. Kerr Seth Lordygan is hilarious as the butler, especially when he does an impersonation of the childrens’ lumpish, silent brother, also reassuring them with an impression of their absent father and distant mother.

It was a decent play, but I don’t really understand why it was chosen to be a finalist over the more emotionally hard-hitting and astute play “The Bad Habit.”

Finalist Week is August 21–23, and they will be staging “A Picture of a Bee,” “Spoken For,” and “Master of None.”  VP of Production has been Erin Treanor, tirelessly overseeing the entire season.

These weekends of Hurricane Season 2009 celebrate the most appealing plays of the scores of submissions considered. All you die-hard theatre enthusiasts out there – check out the remaining weekends of new plays and remember to vote for your favorites!

Eclectic Company Theatre 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood, (between Chandler and Magnolia).  Runs through Aug 23rd Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2pm. $15 Box Office: (818) 508-3003 or

Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theater, and food critic who writes for FilmInk Australia, the Los Angeles Daily News and the Sun Community Newspapers, as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million. Contact her at

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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