Wellington Cafe from Soul Invictus' "Summer of Soul" Play Series
There are simply not as many plays to go see during the summer, and I'm sure we've talked about this before. The upside is that you can fit more arts events into your schedule, because there are fewer conflicts. One of the downsides is that the scaling-back results in almost everything seeming to happen on Saturdays.
courtesy of Soul Invictus Clockwise from top left, Joseph Gaxiola, Carlos Lara, Wes Hart, Dayna Dayson, and Emilie Cipriano star in Wellington Cafe.
Theater, though, usually continues to run at least on Friday and Saturday nights, so you can catch a play on Friday and go to that one-time-only variety show or benefit or what-have-you the following evening. This means you can easily attend Soul Invictus' series of short plays and musical acts, Summer of Soul.
A low-key but ambitious program, S of S has presented a different program each month, with fully staged unpublished one-act plays running for three weekends each, and sometimes a musical act after intermission. (In August, there'll be two one-acts: Moonbeam & the Vampire Girl and The Last Castrato.)
Presently, you have one more weekend to see Ray Charles' Wellington Cafe, and the final musical sets will be from Bogan Via.
Wellington Cafe's a relatively lightweight piece about a casual eatery whose waiter (Joseph Gaxiola) appears to be playing God with the frustration level of one of the regulars. However, all may not be as it seems, and sometimes when God denies you a muffin, he lets you meet a cute girl, so, you know.
The performance I attended had Soul Invictus honcho Franc Gaxiola filling in for cast member and Th [sic] Sense regular Wes Hart -- Franc had to use a script, but he did a fine job. I have to think the show's pacing was affected by not having the regular ensemble in place, so I'm not going to critique that.
Charles' writing is not complex or particularly insightful or witty, in my opinion. That said, despite seeming a bit flat and stereotypical, the characters were, at least, a broad range of stereotypes who tended to redeem themselves by the final blackout. And the cast, directed by another Sickie, Bronwyn Schile, brought a lot of fun and energy to their work, so that the laughs came organically from their interaction.
Last weekend, the audience also got to enjoy So Here's What Happened . . ., some songwriting and storytelling from Michael Bradley, an actor/musician who grew up in the Valley and has scored some Shakespeare productions. Keep an eye out for him. He's also slightly famous for this acoustic (and highly tolerable) cover of Rebecca Black's "Friday":
Wellington Cafe continues through Saturday, July 28, at Soul Invictus, 1022 Grand Avenue. To order tickets ($10) in advance, click here. Or call 602-214-4344 for more information.