- Photo by Teresa Castracane
Seeing Taffety Punk's The Car Plays, a collection of three short plays set in cars, the eternal backseat question comes to mind: Are we there yet? Asked of the playwrights, it seems that all three have not quite reached their destinations — but there are no obvious wrong turns in their three plays about the intimacy that comes with sharing a car ride with others. Like the journeys depicted, some of the plays have a little further to go.
The seats of the cars in each of the plays are represented simply by chairs, and they're occupied by everyone from a pair of college dudes driving back from Burning Man, to a pair of coworkers harboring secret feelings for each other. "Buggy & Tyler," by Gwydion Suilebhan and directed by Joel David Santner, matches up odd-couple college bros of the same names. Buggy (Eric Messner) is your typical fraternity douchebag, and Tyler (Jason Lott) is an uptight nerd trying to get back to campus in time to sign up for a selective art history course. Their trip hits some bumps in the road, both literal and figurative. As for "dREAMtRIPPIN'" (erratic capitalization can be blamed on playwright Thomas Michael Campbell) coworkers Karen (Taffety regular Esther Williamson) and Stephen (Mark Krawczyk) may or may not have a crush on each other — or is it all in their Inception-like dreams within dreams?
The most sobering of the three plays is "Nebraska by Noon," in which a wearied mother must transport her abusive son (Alex Vaughn) to a treatment center. The issue that playwright Briandaniel Oglesby examines — what leads a mother to give up her disturbed child to become a ward of the state? — is meaty, but halfway through the car trip, the whole thing devolves into a screaming, fighting mess, just as it likely would in real life. Still, there are tender moments, like when the mom (Sheila Hennessey) wipes the drool from her son's mouth as he sleeps, sedated by medication she's force-fed him. If it were NPR instead of Taffety Punk, we'd call it a driveway moment.