City Paper is not for tourists
How much drama can fit inside a community of three tiny houses? A lot, it seems, in both senses of the word. Boneyard Studios, D.C.’s most visible demonstrators of sustainably minded microliving, split in recent weeks: Two of the members are currently seeking new land without co-founder Brian Levy and his Minim Homes. But for now, everyone is playing nice as Pinky Swear Productions takes over all three structures (they share a lot in Stronghold) for Tiny House Plays, a fascinating five-show compendium of extremely cozy theater exploring lives packed into 200 square feet.
Each of the five plays is self-contained, though they all take place under the guise of a neighborhood party. After theater staff divides the audience into groups, there might be four people or fewer actually viewing these two- to three-person plays at a time. This is in-your-face intimacy: When one player lit a joint, she did it two feet from me.
Occasionally the actors will make vague references to their neighbors, but the real overlapping thrill is hearing the action from earlier plays while taking in a new work next door. A ukulele-strumming woman traverses the grounds on the way to her story, while other characters wander in and out of their own dramas. Director Jessica Aimone has created the feel of a house party, stuck in time.
One work, by Danielle Mohlman, is a relationship struggle in media res: We watch a couple (Clarissa Barton and Christian Campbell) argue silently through their house window, then we gingerly step inside to witness their fight up close. Turns out she’s fed up with his minimalist obsession, sick of moving tables every time they go to bed. Thankfully, Pinky Swear is too irreverent to simply evangelize for tiny-housedom. In the funniest play, written by Laura Zam, the audience is treated to an acerbic tour of the lifestyle from someone uniquely positioned not to buy what micro-residencies are selling.
There are other couples, one about to throw a pajama party, the other coping with an unwanted dinner guest who emerges from inside the house. (These models really pack everything in.) And the best of the five works, written by Donna Rachelle, is also the most opaque: A family lounges outdoors speaking in circuitous phrases as the daughter apologizes for missing dinner, then for…something else.
The one element that seems off is the staff herding the guests into Boneyard’s communal space to degroup and regroup in between every performance. This effectively creates four separate intermissions for an already brief show. Some staging might have helped during this downtime, or failing that, a simple house rotation to cut out the waiting. Meta-textual analysts may crave even more conscious linking of themes, ideas, and characters; there’s not much to connect these stories. But what’s here, though tiny, shudders with the rush of the new and unexpected. Even when the theater isn’t engaging, there are still the houses themselves to admire, while they’re still there.
21 Evarts St. NE. $20. pinkyswear-productions.com