Uneven new plays at arts festival

By Izzy Anderson - Staff Reporter

You might want to walk away from They Walk Among Us, and escort yourself over to Escorting Tom.

Burien Actors Theatre hosted the Billy and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival last weekend and will continue to this weekend. The two plays They Walk Among Us and Escorting Tom are being shown again from April 21 to 23, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

First on the bill is They Walk Among Us, written by Kirsten McCory and directed by Laura Shearer. 

In this play Greek god and goddess Hera and Zeus move down to earth and start seeing a psychiatrist together due to Zeus' cheating ways. 

Mixing the modern era with mythology is an interesting premise that had potential, but it doesn't go very far here. 

McCory seemed to have written this play with the idea that gods can have human issues as well. With this in mind, the show still seemed a little unclear of what point it was trying to get across.

Three actors performed in this play with Carrie Schnelker as Hera, Margaret VandenBerghe as psychiatrist Dr. Gold, and Kevin Finney as Zeus. 

Finney showed Zeus' womanizing side well. Schnelker and VandenBerghe, however, were not as convincing. Part of this could be the directing by Shearer though, as Hera's character came off as a worrying pushover.

Sound designer Eric Dickman and lighting designer Craig Orsinger came together to make some great effects.

When the gods in the play felt emotions, lights would flash up and stormy sounds would rumble across the stage. These effects contributed to the story and matched the moods of the play's characters. 

The set design by Maggie Larrick included several rooms that were used during the show, which helped to immerse the audience a little more in the story.

The costumes by Tucker O'Conner contributed to the story in the latter half of the show. Both Hera and Zeus wore regular clothing for most of the show. But while the two are getting ready to move back to Mount Olympus, Zeus is portrayed wearing his traditional Greek robes, symbolizing his unwillingness to change his old ways.

Escorting Tom, written by Duane Kelly and directed by Calen P. Winn, concludes the evening. 

Escorting Tom gives us a peek into the lives of Carol and Tom, a dysfunctional separated couple who live together. When Tom's love interest, Margot, enters the picture, things get complicated.

The script for this play flows well and the back-and-forth dialogue between characters is clever.

While the plot dwells on unimportant scenes sometimes and has a few unnecessary moments, once it takes off it gets you empathizing with the play's protagonist. 

Kelly's reoccurring theme for this story seemed to be that we all have to change and move on with our lives, even if our ways of doing so are unconventional.

Several twists occur during the play that give the performance more depth. This show lets you see into the lives of these characters as they are learning to grow up, while being grown-ups. 

Darla Smedley as Carol shined the brightest during this play, although Mark Gladding as Tom and Jane Martin as Margot had their moments.

The sound by Eric Dickman was good, moments where music played and the characters' phones rang were clearly heard, but not overpowering.

The lighting by Craig Orsinger was adept, although there were moments where the lighting cues were a couple seconds off, leaving the actors in their frozen positions for a while. 

Costume designer Tucker O'Conner matched the costumes to the play's theme and all the outfits suited the characters' personality traits. 

Prop designer Cyndi Baumgardner and set designer Maggie Larrick both succeeded in making the story feel real. Several indoor and outdoor locations were switched out between acts and plenty of props were used to personify the characters and make them feel more real.

Burien Actors Theatre's acoustics were a problem for both plays. The actors needed to shout in order for the audience to hear them. 

Make sure you have a lot of time to spare if you see these shows, as the performances took a little over three hours, including intermissions and breaks. 

Following these plays are two more shows, Winter People and The Law of the Sea, which debut on the weekends from April 28 to May 7 at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets are $10 for both plays. For more information or tickets, visit burienactorstheatre.org.

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