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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Theatre Review: Hurricane Season @ Eclectic Company Theatre

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No, it's not Beetlejuice, it'sGarrett Liggett (l.), Mason Hallberg, Evan Shafran, Rebecca Lane in 'Sally Spectre' at the Eclectic Company Theatre's Hurricane Season. / Photo credit: Rebecca Bonebrake.

We’re big fans of one-act and short play competitions around town because it gives LAist an opportunity to see some of the most creative work on stage by up-and-coming writers on one night. But sometimes, too, you have to sit through mediocre and pedantic productions to get to the good stuff – and that’s exactly what happened Saturday night at the Eclectic Company in North Hollywood -- opening weekend of the Fifth Annual Hurricane Season: One-Act Playwriting Competition.

We watched three short plays in Saturday’s competition. The winner, voted for by audience ballot, will move on to final rounds of the Hurricane Season Festival and Competition.

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The evening opened with the quirky “Fish: A Love Story” by Evan Lai. Brent Schindele played Chris, who meets the goldfish (Nick Freilich) who loved him in a previous life. The former goldfish is gay, and it turns out that Chris is too. The entertaining play provided a few laughs, but we couldn’t tell by Freilich’s distracting facial expressions whether he was trying not to laugh or whether he was in character.

The relationship drama "Gun Play" by Kurt McGinnis Brown had a decent script, but the actors couldn't quite pull it off that evening. Whether it was his nerves or low energy, we had trouble hearing Jason Britt at first - he seemed to be emoting a la Brad Pitt/James Dean squinty look, which is great for TV or film, but not for the stage. The other actors (Beth Ricketson and Mike "fuz" Edwards) tried to lift the energy, but the trio together seemed a bit off balance.

So when it came time for "Sally Spectre: The Musical" to end the evening, we weren't sure what to expect. The production stills reminded us of Beetlejuice, and we wondered how writer David P. Johnson could turn a story about a little girl with a hatchet embedded in her skull into a musical. But as weird as it sounds, the storyline, the acting and the direction by Chelsea Sutton worked fantastically. And while lead Rebecca Lane (as Sally) didn't have the greatest singing voice, we didn't mind at all because the cast -- individually and as an ensemble - were on point from the opening line.

Though we don't know which play from this first weekend the audience ultimately chose to compete in the following weeks of the competition, we're pulling for a certain dead little girl and her playthings.

Hurricane Season: One-Act Playwriting Competition
Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, until Aug. 24