• RATING: **½
• WHERE: Jacob Myers Park, 23653 S. Santa Fe Ave., Riverbank and West Side Theatre, 1331 Main St., Newman
• WHEN: 2 p.m. June 28 (Riverbank) and 7:30 p.m. July 10-11 (Newman)
• RUNNING TIME: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission
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• TICKETS: $10-$12
• INFORMATION: 818-4834 or www.inspiracyarts.org
Local writers and performers have a new forum to share their talents.
Inspiracy Arts, a nonprofit founded by current and former Modesto Junior College students, presented the Central Valley Playwrights Festival, "Caution: Hi-Jinx Ensue" at MJC's Music Recital Hall on Friday night.
In this area where so many young people complain that there's nothing to do, it's exciting to see some of them take the initiative and create an organization of their own.
It's impressive that they've already gotten some sponsors (among the biggest are Extreme Pita and Tri-Tal Realty) and that they're donating a portion of ticket proceeds to charities, including Community Hospice.
Though the five short plays featured in the show seem rough and unpolished, the production is a good start and hopefully will pave the way for better things to come.
The strongest piece by far is Cierra Sanchez and DJ Clark's "Stuck in the Middle With You," about a group of very different people who get stuck in an elevator.
A wanna-be rock star (Kyle Owens) shares his new song about his favorite food, prompting the admiration of a woman with Tourette's syndrome (Sanchez). Meanwhile, a man with a split personality (Clark) switches back and forth between being the stoner Washington and the effeminate artist Utopia. Nervous geek (Michael Scurries) tries to stay out of everyone's way and businessman (Robert Gress) looks on everyone with disdain.
The next best play is Scurries' "Good Morrow Broseph," in which fraternity members with hangovers and wearing togas banter back and forth in Shakespearean language. Cast members Robert Fourre, Owens, Gress and Scurries rib each other mercilessly about girls, tests and favorite beverages.
The remaining three plays are heavy on cynicism and insults but low on humor. Steven Robert King's "Oatmeal Under the Elder Tree" is about a woman who ties her son to a tree because he doesn't eat a proper breakfast. Gress' "Humility for Humilities' Sake" centers on a pompous man who hires an artist to paint his portrait. Jeff Carnegie's "A New Heart" focuses on the clash between two sisters, one a spinsterish, angry homebody and the other a promiscuous, free-spirited yoga master.
The minimal sets include a fireplace, a hospital and a cardboard cutout tree.
The show will hit the road over the next few weeks, opening for Rio Arts' Shakespeare in the Park production of "Taming of the Shrew" in Riverbank and then playing the West Side Theatre in Newman.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.