TAMPA — The Young Dramatists' Project showcase at the Gorilla Theatre each year offers short plays by the area's best high school playwrights, staged by top pros. It's rewarding to watch the playwrights explore their creativity, but their inexperience can make for long evenings.
This year's show reins in the extremes of the past. It's shorter and more enjoyable, but not as exciting. The five plays are well-constructed, and directed and acted strongly. But they don't have those moments of brash failure. They do have some pretty adult content. As a warning in the program advises, these are plays by minors, not for minors.
Three writers — Sierra Almengual, Alexander Nunnelly and Gabriel Neustadt — attend Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg. Andrew Ford goes to Palm Harbor University High School, and Elizabeth Klettke goes to Blake High School in Tampa.
All five show promise. Almengual's Order is a taut scene about a boy who snaps after years of abuse. Klettke's Aftershots consists of fairly insightful monologues from stereotypical students in the wake of a school shooting.
Nunnelly's Red Cross is probably the most artistically mature play, the story of a volunteer trying to coax a woman from her home as floodwaters approach. Nunnelly neatly nudges the focus to the volunteer, who has to face his failures.
The most daring are Ford's Fable de Veras and Neustadt's Destruction Room. Ford's play, about a family of illegal immigrants, uses a puppet as the young daughter. The play itself is decent but the puppet is a creepy distraction.
Destruction Room comes off as an excuse for actors to break stuff. Neustadt seems to be aiming for a message but does not entirely hit it.
Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes on performing arts. He can be reached