You'd think that the biggest problem in a festival of teenage dramatists would be immature writing. Oddly, though, the major problem with the debuts of three promising writers in Pegasus Players' ninth annual "Young Playwrights Festival" is unambitious, perfunctory productions.
Joseph Soto's Mi Barrio Loco, about Mexican families torn apart by street gangs, is tough, tersely written, and compulsively watchable. It may be a tad overwritten in parts, and its gritty dialogue often feels imitative, but the right production could have made it crackle--it might one day make an excellent film. Yet it's been crippled by some stilted approximations of street talk and director Ralph Flores's peculiar casting choices: a white, suburban girl-next-door type in the role of a rough-and-ready Mexican, and Rey Francia in a stunningly off-the-mark campy turn as an addled matriarch.
Colleen Shea's sensitive, intelligently written, but ultimately wearying journey into the psyche of a manic-depressive teen in Jane's Chair is further hampered by a slow-moving, didactic production that accentuates the play's repetitiveness. As director, the normally reliable Gary Griffin doesn't delve adequately into the nuances underlying Jane's behavior. This static production lies midway between staged reading and children's theater.
Alex Levy's witty, amiable, crisply written Scout's Honor may be the least ambitious of the bunch: his account of a first date gone awry when Daddy comes home is a bit pat. But director Warner Crocker coaxes two (can I use this word without cringing?) adorable performances from Stef Tovar and Jen Abrams as the teens in love. If only Pegasus had put as much time and energy into the other two productions as all three playwrights put into their scripts.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studio.