The mini plays are nearly upstaged by the tiny houses in “Tiny House Plays,” a 90-minute theater piece and house tour set in the aggressively downsized enclave called Boneyard Studios.
In a nutshell: Boneyard Studios is a lot on a rowhouse-lined alley just off North Capitol Street and it’s just big enough for four trailer-sized units known as tiny houses. (The “tiny house” idea is a bit of a movement – low cost, minimal carbon footprint, etc.)
The bright minds at Pinky Swear Productions thought it would be fun to stage a cycle of brief new plays in the wee homes. Each show is short — 15 minutes or so — and set in one of the often ingeniously efficient little units, several of which are actually being lived in part- time. The audience is split into small groups and shepherded from station to station to see playlets about love, death, aging and coping.
The plays are sweet and funny and sad — and secondary. Inside somebody else’s pocket-sized house, your eye can’t help roving and taking stock of the plan. Where’s the shower? Ooh, neat: That bed slides away under a slightly raised platform that serves as a pint-sized music studio. And look — a flat screen TV snug against the wall in a bunk-style loft! Spartan deluxe!
Trailers have been squeezing the most features into the least space forever, of course — and these houses, some of which are impressively orchestrated, are on wheels to comply with permitting. The Pinky Swear scripts respond to the forced intimacy: Danielle Mohlman’s morose two-character “For Emma” catches a couple just as they seem to be breaking up, while the comic “Josie, June, and Death” by Ann and Shawn Fraistat shows that three’s a crowd when a black-hooded Death figure horns in on two once-happy girlfriends.
Thembi Duncan’s “Girls and Women” explores the downscaled ambitions of a woman turning 40, while Laura Zam’s “Big Bread” — the loosest and least pointed play in the package — deals with the ghost of a hustler shot nearby years ago. Here, and in Donna Rachelle’s “Days Gone Bye,” which takes place on an outdoor patio, it’s hard not to feel the influence of Glenwood Cemetery across the alley. (The gloomily poetic “Days” features a ukulele-strumming daughter wistfully apologizing to her parents for being late.)
The small audiences sometimes applaud and sometimes simply commune in silence with director and project deviser Jessica Aimone’s actors. There are no bows or curtain calls, and one show even begins and ends with the audience peeping at the action through the windows. It’s all casual, quiet, a low-impact, low-cal night — bonbon-sized plays and settings in an ultra-quaint backyard.
By Thembi Duncan, Ann and Shawn Fraistat, Laura Zam, Danielle Mohlman and Donna Rachelle. Directed by Jessica Aimone. With Lilian Oben, Stephanie Svec, Melissa Hmelnicky, Allyson Harkey, Kevin O’Reilly, Nathan Alston, Gray West, Alexis Graves, Clarissa Barton, Christian Campbell, Kimberlee Wolfson, Dexter Hamlett and Georgia Mae Lively. 1, 3, 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Oct. 11 and 12 at Boneyard Studios, 21 Evarts St. NE. Visit pinkyswear-productions.com. $20 (Advance sales only). About 90 minutes.