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“Heroes & Villains” starts as heavy, message-driven show and ends with parody. Another Source Festival production featuring six 10-minute plays, this night of theater delves into AIDS and police violence before it gets lightweight. While none of the plays are as good as the best of “Lovers & Friends,” there are highlights in each production that warrant a night out.
The first act starts strong with Executive Order 10450, a very sad and common story of a father that won’t acknowledge his son’s ambiguous sexuality. Father and son, played by T. Anthony Quinn and Eric Humphries, are well-cast in their roles. Oscar Grant is Dead and I’m Terrified comes next and hits like a brick. It’s a collage of stories based around the unjust police shooting of Oscar Grant, in which five people tell us what the crowd already knows: some cops are racist and this sucks. The act ends, surprisingly, with some humor. The Peach, my favorite play of the night, features two hit men—-think George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men—-discussing their next job. Things don’t play out exactly as planned. A fun, clever way to cover a lot of ground in a little bit of time, this work was obviously a lot of fun for Alex Dreamann to write.
Following a pointless intermission, Act 2 kicks off with a completely inappropriate game show format (not a bad thing) featuring Erik the Red (Sun King Davis) questioning historic explorers and the audience about the meaning of life. In Ice Holes, Davis gives the performance of the night, portraying the host as a charismatic murderer and wordsmith; but ultimately, the piece suffers from its time constraints. Park Place or Monopoly Becomes Electra seems to be aimed towards the theater student in all of us: A little too heady and in love with itself, the play shows Greek mythological figures Electra and Orestes playing a board game, then murdering their parents. Closing the night is True Nails, the story of a renegade priest turned P.I. investigating the stolen nails used to crucify his savior. Tony Villis’ Father Mitch, Amy Kellet‘s Mary, and Jennifer Knight‘s Magdelana are fun, plain and simple, and their performances mitigate the preachiness of the material.
“Heroes & Villains” took a lot of chances, and not all of them were successful. Thankfully, a few talented actors’ performances can make even failed experiments worthwhile.
“Heroes and Villains” runs June 17 at 6 p.m., June 21 at 8 p.m., June 25 at 1 p.m., and July 2 at 4 p.m. at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $20. sourcedc.org.