by Collin McConnell · June 4, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #103 Collin McConnell looks at Leashes for Dinosaurs at Planet Connections Festivity It appears that no one really likes anyone anymore.
It's Amelia's birthday, but no one has come to her party, save for her friends that are throwing it - Kara and Nathan. And eventually, her other friend, Lira, shows up. But they aren't really her friends. They don't really like her. They don't really like each other. No one seems to really understand why they're still in this room, still celebrating this birthday.
But, as with all (good?) birthday parties, it starts with a bottle of champagne.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ON SAFETY: As a fight choreographer, my eye is always on actor and audience safety. During the performance I saw, the bottle of champagne was opened unprotected, and the cork popped, rocketing just barely above my head. Both actor and audience were put in danger in this moment, and that should never happen. I have emailed the festival regarding this, but have not yet received a response.
The verbal slight dealt a little while later in the play perhaps points to some of the difficulty I had in watching it: Nathan remarks how he was recently on a cruise ship, and a character on the boat popped open a bottle of champagne, hitting someone in the head, knocking them over, rendering them unconscious. That this, in the text, is a joke, and could very well have happened only moments before in the theater, the humor was not all that tactful. Not that humor in the theater needs to be tactful, but in this case, it had a bitter taste, making me wonder just how much this play was considering those watching it.
I do not mean to detract with the talk of corks, but safety is insanely important.
And so, every moment is important. Take care to craft, and keep a weather eye.
So. To the play.
Valerie Graham's Leashes for Dinosaurs - part of the excellently conscious Planet Connections festival - reaches to grapple with what I think of as a rather important question: why do we remain connected? And then, how do we lose that connection? The play unfortunately struggles with this, living in a world mostly filled with awkward, lonely wallowing, allowing the characters to ultimately (re)connect without any real connection.
Additionally, much of the action is glossed over, leaving moments that might be rich to fall flat and seem merely played at. This I chalk up to a case of biting off more than can really be chewed. Valerie Graham is not only the author, but also the director and starring as Amelia. Her work as Amelia seems unhindered by this - she has a strength and confidence unable to be hidden by the weakness of Amelia. But I fear too much was missed by Graham as the director, with her not ever really being able to see the whole picture, not taking the time to truly craft many of those smaller moments happening in this birthday party.
A birthday party, I might add, interspersed with dream sequences that are more odd than revelatory.
Odd, however, is not necessarily bad. There are hints of a really fun story laying just beneath the surface of this text. The more ridiculous moments were ones in which I was happy to relax as I smiled and wondered, hoping the play might continue down the path of saxophone / melodica duets, uncalled for escalation of drama, and absurd pantomimed dreams (an excellent moment of levity, played with wonderful sincerity by Vincent Santvoord). Leashes for Dinosaurs never quite goes for it, and even though the final moment is one of extremity in the ridiculous, it is nonetheless settling on a more comfortable (and perhaps not-quite-earned) note of coming together.