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Arts and Entertainment

Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight

Durango lawyer stages night of one-act plays
Cap Allen, left, Kim Welty and Jeff Deitch act in a rehearsal of “Clearly Ambiguous,” one of seven mini-plays written and directed by Deitch.

When Brad meets Linda for a drink, the ritual of online dating wicks between hope and comic disappointment. Conversation sputters then reignites as they fill in the blanks of their lives.

Fictional characters, Bradley Frischman and Linda Nowacki (Jeff Deitch and Mandy Gardner), appear in “Match Game.” It’s one of seven original sketches presented under the umbrella: “Lies, Shame, and Self-Medication: A Durango Love Story.”

Created by local attorney and passionate theater buff Jeffrey Deitch, the idea sparked two years ago. He had directed and appeared in the Durango Arts Center’s fledgling 10-Minute Play Festival. He has participated twice, and it occurred to him to write his own 10-minute play or a series and showcase them in one evening of comedy.

Deitch’s project will come to life this weekend in the Henry Strater Theatre, where his “Durango Love Story” will unfold.

The prologue, “Intensive Therapy,” takes place in a therapist’s office. It is there he imagines his moment of inspiration. Feeling guilty he can’t save humanity, let alone himself, he visits Dr. Naomi Smith (played by 9-year-old Naomi Smith) a diminutive, Lucy-like therapist. She suggests an unusual line of treatment: write a play and put on a show about your conundrums.

Topics range over various dilemmas, relationships, moral ambiguities and – to use a favorite therapeutic trope – coping strategies. Each sketch is grounded in humor and all have a touch of the absurd. Since the whole evening has the air of autobiography, Deitch has cast himself in several sketches.

“I grew up in Washington, D.C., in a family of Jewish immigrants,” he said in a recent interview. “My upbringing was rooted in the notion of strict right and wrong. I was told there were no shades of grey. Except, of course, I observed that there were always ambiguities.”

He said he left home at 16 and moved to the Southwest. He attended Stanford University and then Vanderbilt Law School. He became a trial lawyer and settled in Durango.

Over the course of 21 years, he said he collected more stories one “couldn’t possibly invent,” adding to his comedic repertoire. The result, part one at least, has been forged into an evening of 10-minute comedies.

“Diamond Girls” (Judy Hook and Lori Cole) features two women of a certain age, class and ethnicity. Over teacups, they kvetch about husbands, children and life in general. The playwright then takes side trips into a Catholic confessional, a talk radio show, a restaurant for that online date and an attorney’s office.

In “Talk Radio,” Deitch and Gardner pair up again as an enthusiastic pair of advice peddlers. Dr. Ken and Dr. Jen spin out Rush Limbaugh-style, Dr. Ruth-content to a number of callers. For dramatic purposes, the callers step onto the Strater stage to explain their own entanglements. Veteran Durango actor Bob Thom spoofs an aging Lothario and a foolish congressman. Fort Lewis College theater major Leah Brewer brings to life a Seattle housewife and a bewildered companion.

Thom and Snowdown comedienne Lisa Zwisler appear in an imaginary confessional. “Clearly Ambiguous” finds the Lundquists (Kim Welty and Cap Allen) confronting the tangle of divorce in Baxter Harrington III’s law office. Fort Lewis College theater major Rob Harrington plays a WASP namesake.

The evening ends with “New World,” Deitch’s spin on the future of America, right up to the election of 2088. As Siri, a fairy godmother-cum-bag lady, Zwisler wheels a shopping cart onto the stage. She illuminates the drug-induced fantasies of Howie (Marc West) and Justin (Eli Rosenbaum). Is this Deitch’s vision of a future where everyone realizes the American dream?

“Lies, Shame, and Self-Medication” features cabaret seating and will have one short intermission.

jreynolds@durangoherald.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.

10-minute plays: A new form for a new time

Like Twitter or telepsychiatry, the 10-minute play is a relatively new form of dramatic communication with its own illustrious, if short, history.

The first national 10-minute play contest was held in 1976 at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky. The brainchild of actor-playwright Jon Jory, the 10-minute festival in Louisville has come to be known as the Kentucky Derby of American Theater. It recently held its 25th contest and festival with the apprentice company of Actors Theatre performing the winners. I was there for the 2014 edition only a month ago, and it’s a going concern – so popular the contest cuts off at 500 entries each fall. Five finalists take the stage each April.

Durango adapted the idea in 2011, when Dinah and Terry Swan brought the Louisville format to the Durango Arts Center. They launched the first national DAC competition and welcomed 92, 130, 128, and this year 143 scripts in the first four years running. Jeff Deitch has participated in two rounds, directing and acting.

The 2014 reading of finalists will take place Friday at DAC. Audience members get to vote for a popular choice. Judges select prize-winners who earn a full fall production.

If you go

“Lies, Shame, and Self-Medication: A Durango Love Story,” an original play written and directed by Jeffrey Deitch, 7:30 p.m. May 22, 23, 24, at the Henry Strater Theatre. Tickets $15, available at Durango Welcome Center, 802 Main Ave., online at www.henrystratertheatre.com, or at the door, 247-7657.

Jan 20, 2022
Former Durango attorney, playwright found dead north of town
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