Friday, September 11, 2015

REVIEW: 5th Wall Productions' Crazy Little Thing Called Love is a charming presentation of life, love, and the pursuit of something more

Love. What is it good for?

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 12:11 PM

click to enlarge crazyposter.png
5th Wall Productions, a theater company founded earlier this year, has announced its first production: Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The set of five ten(ish) minute plays all cover the topic of the big L, ranging, we're told, from hilarious skits to moments of real heartbreak. 

But perhaps the most surprising part of the show is the unlikely new theater space — Citadel Mall. Though their theater within the mall is still under construction, that hasn't stopped 5th Wall founders Blair Cadden, Jason Olson, Alex Skipper, and Christian Brunetti from presenting their first in-house performance.

I was a bit taken aback by the stark nature of 5th Wall's space — in an old shoe store the spot features grooved walls, mall carpet, and bright fluorescent lights. Sounds of construction bang in the background and the echoing of late-night gym goers (and maybe even a few mall walkers) trickles in from Planet Fitness next door. There's no snack bar, no wine selection, and no candle-lit tables. Woolfe Street Playhouse, this is not. What 5th Wall Productions' new home is, though, is a perfectly bland and unassuming setting on which really great performances can shine. At least that's the hope with their inaugural production.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love starts with The Kiss, written by Mark Harvey Levine, and directed by Kate Tooley, 5th Wall's volunteer coordinator and associate marketing director. Dennis (DeShawn Mason), an early 20-something guy, comes over to his best friend Allison's (Kate Berry) apartment and asks her to help him with his kissing skills before a first date. What starts off as comical conversation quickly turns serious, and in 10 minutes the actors show a range of emotions that feel drastically different from the used-sock fuzz on an old shoe store's floor. They kiss and you, the audience member, giggle with excitement. They're good.

There is a musical interlude between each performance, most notably songs sung in the deep and quavering voice of Fred Maiment, an older gentleman who tips his hat after making eye contact during "Taking a Chance on Love." I'm telling you — you're transported, lack of vino or not.

click to enlarge There's nothing pretty about 5th Wall Production's new space. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • There's nothing pretty about 5th Wall Production's new space.
The highlight of the evening is DeShawn Mason's dramatic reading of Taylor Swift lyrics. What an odd mish-mash of pieces you say? Yes. And it's perfectly suited to the unconventional room in which you sit in surprisingly comfy red cushioned seats.

The following performances are not quite as gripping as the first. One tells the story of an unlikely lesbian couple. Another tells the story of a couple who communicate solely through sticky notes. There's a series of monologues on love (and mainly, on gender) written by Charles Mee, the American playwright known for his collage-like style; and a play, The Bear, by Anton Chekov about a widow who falls in love with a debt collector. 

At times lengthy (I thought we were getting 10 minute plays) the performances are genuine and rarely forced. Thought you'd never find a reason to go to a mall? Think again. The performances start tonight and run until Sept. 19. 

UPDATE: 5th Wall Productions now has a drink and snack bar, and they're working on getting a liquor license. 

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