It is a nice touch to have the budding writers of this year’s “20th Annual Young Playwright’s Festival” precede the performances of their plays with video testimonials about what winning a coveted slot has given them both intellectually and emotionally. Yet despite satisfying their literary curiosities and instilling in each of them a sense of personal accomplishment, a terrible disservice has been done to these young writers by the folks at Pegasus Players in allowing their dramaturgical efforts – at least in their currently anemic states – anywhere near a stage, let alone open to critical scrutiny. “Writing Your Tragedy,” about estranged and embittered siblings reunited by the death of a parent – the cookie-cutter narrative template to a million dysfunctional melodramas – lacks the key ingredients that might make this type of drama work: sympathetic characters; subtext; high-stakes. The second selection, “An Evening with the Living Dead,” certainly provides the pop-cultural laughs that come from teenagers who find the time to wax philosophical on the evolution of zombies through three decades of film as they are slowly being cannibalized by them. But when this satire tries to make an important point about race relations, all the while depending upon a grotesque Asian stereotype for the majority of its laughs, it begins to smell as bad as a rotten corpse. At least the final piece, “I Am Someone,” comprised of a series of modular monologues about the darker side of growing up in urban America, displays a glint of theatrical edge through its raw voice and a willingness to play with its audience’s comfort levels. Nevertheless, the evening as a whole falls lamentably short and the trio of winning plays (apparently the best from more than 700 submissions) provides very little to get excited about. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
O’Rourke Center at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson, (773) 878-9761. Fri – Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm. $12. Through Jan 29th.