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REVIEW: The 24 Hour Plays: The Second Half (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

There’s always something exciting about a frenzied rush to create. Sometimes the work produced under pressure is brilliant, with daringness that would probably get sanded with too much reflection. Sometimes the results are…less than appealing, which is something that happens. Most often, the results are a mixed bag – which was the case on Monday night when the results of The 24 Hour Plays were unveiled to the public on Monday with a performance at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

Oddly missing hyphens and David Darrow’s musical interpolations aside, the second half of The 24 Hour Plays had much to recommend it going in, with plays by Christina Ham, Heather Meyer, and Michael Elyanow, with all-star casts to go round. The occasion? The 100th anniversary of the Pantages Theatre, which narrowly avoided demolition in 1996 before being renovated and revived as a home for touring performances and large-scale musicals by Theater Latté Da.

Chirstima Ham’s play ALT was both disappointing and offensive. This short play continues the common practice of stigmatizing and pathologizing veterans in the theatre as sociopaths, which is both insulting to those who served and unfortunately consequential beyond the boundaries of art. The much-hinted bomb falls flat in the reveal, which is especially surprising when this involves the off-stage killing of children. The cast seemed lost on stage with the material, which did not seem to provide many clear specifics to latch onto.

A night-and-day difference was seen with Heather Meyer’s play Yearning, a splendid comedy. This send-up of art gallery shorts, art heists, and the absurdities of modern art featured Tyler Michaels as Yearn, a desperate performance artist sidelined as various characters battle to steal seemingly everything else in the museum gallery in which he is installed. Tightly directed by Christy Montour-Larson, this short play flowed brilliantly from one hilarious absurdity to the next, making excellent and consequential use of the provided props.

The Family Blank, by Michael Elyanow, took a different tact and a turn for the dark in its closing moments. What starts as a seemingly familiar play-about-a-band is, before its end, a thought-provoking exploration of standing up to power. The play builds slowly, but the arc is successful and interesting throughout.

Basil Considine