Actors Alchemy's Short Play Festival at PHX:fringe

From left, Jeff Steed, Bob Barr, and Alice Bjorklund mix it up in Make This Go Away, part of Actors Alchemy's Short Play Festival.
From left, Jeff Steed, Bob Barr, and Alice Bjorklund mix it up in Make This Go Away, part of Actors Alchemy's Short Play Festival.
courtesy of PHX:fringe

Actors Alchemy is a group of Valley performers who allegedly get together every week and work on their craft. This is a good thing. Plenty of acting teachers charge money, and some of them deserve to, but you can accomplish a lot in a cooperative with your peers, too, while saving some cash and maybe getting a straight answer about your talent.

I only say "allegedly" because Actors Alchemy keeps a fairly low profile, at least in the radar of the general public. The actors who performed in their PHX:fringe show, which closed as scheduled at Space 55 on Sunday evening, March 4, were quite sharp and unselfconscious, so they're doing something right.

Two of the three plays were written by Robert Barr, who also appears in at least one of them. (There's no printed program.) The first, The Yard Sale, sports a large cast of neighbors who at first seem a bit wary of a couple who purchased the foreclosed home of former neighbors. Then the conflicts and motivations shift, a little too abruptly (even though the script is very short). Ten-minute plays are how most playwrights start out. Barr might want to put some more work into this one if he wishes to let it be presented again.

The second playlet, Holly, written by Mikki Shelton, is more leisurely and sparsely populated, allowing some time and space for its main character to reveal herself. It's still a lightweight piece of writing, but it's a decent showcase for the performers, who include Israel Jimenez.

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In Make This Go Away, Barr's second contribution, the plot twists and disclosed secrets snowball in a suspenseful, funny tale of another home under threat. It was a warm and engaging story, all the better for featuring mature actors who don't always have a lot to do on the Valley's more visible stages.

Between the short plays, two of the actors moved set pieces around while engaging in what we were later told was an improvised dialogue about a "No Strings Attached" Craigslist encounter. It was very good improv. I would have had no idea. (I thought it was one of the announced plays until the company explained afterward.)

Though you can't see this PHX:fringe 2012 show in the festival's second week, keep an eye out for Actors Alchemy and their alumni. Their goal is to create "a brand capable of presenting a stable of performance-ready performers to the stage, film, TV and video community," and they're well on the way.

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