Organic/The Running of the Deer/That Story Again (Occupy The Stage 22, online)

The National Women’s Theater Festival presents Occupy The Stage 22, a livestream festival of new plays mixed in with encore readings of fan favorites from previous years.

These three dramas make up part of Occupy The Stage 2022.

Poster image for Organic

Organic, by Jenna Jane is a bitesize play, running just 15 minutes. It is a two-hander featuring Gael Schaefer and Shakira Searle, set at some unspecified date in the future. Donna, in her seventies, and never modified, is in a doctor’s office with a failing kidney. As the two discuss bionic upgrades, bespoke bodies, and whether being mostly artificial loses a sense of self, memories start to be discussed and unpalatable truths faced.

Shira Helena Gitlin directs this tight piece which looks at ethical issues around body modifications and exploitation of people if they have “nothing to heal or restore”. We are already in a world where various body transplants are commonplace to prolong life, and surgical procedures to halt ageing are being taken up even by the very young. But is the right approach to keep upgrading and improving, or to embrace the rich seam of emotional connection?

Poster image for The Hunting of the Deer

The Running of the Deer, by Jill Maynard, runs 45 minutes, and is very much around environmental crimes and damage limitations. George is a CEO who has been responsible for an event that has caused deaths, and out of court settlement, and a huge fine. Now he brings in the PR to make himself look good, but do Sally and Ann have something else in mind?

The cast (Danny Barba, Jen Diaz, Thom Haynes, Amanda Lee Scherle), directed by Karen Loewy Movilla, work well together through a complicated plot involving technology, racism, misogyny, homophobia, blackmail, and white mail privilege. There are lighter moments to balance those where inapporopriate comments and actions are made and discussed, and I felt Haynes and Diaz carried the bulk of the play very effectively, even sparking off each other though they were worlds apart.

Poster image for That Story Again

That Story Again, by Emma Joy Hill, runs 10 minutes, and features Chris Kraus and JJ Van Name. It’s a couple on yet another anniversary …. and they made a promise of mutual mutiliation each year. They seem to have an audience “all these people”, but it unclear who thyey are speaking to, and why their anniversary has become a cause for performance.

This is an odd piece about playing games, and never saying quite what you mean. The language is affected, artificial, odd. It is both blackly comic and achingly tragic, but I couldn’t quite connect with it until close to the end.

Directed by Ruthie Evelyn Allen, this has the makings of a curious horror story, but it wasn’t quite visceral enough for me and felt as if it was holding something back. I did like the ending, however, where the Wife takes control of her own story.

You can buy tickets for the Occupy the Stage Festival with a range of pricing options here. Each day’s collection of shows remains available for 96 hours after their premiere, and each show gets two streams.