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The Little Play That Could.

Reviewing: Samuel French Inc. Competition Piece  |  Rating:
By Collin Skeen on
Badge: Author | Level: 3 | Fiction & Creative Expertise:

In 1993, playwright John S. Wells specifically wrote a one-act play for West Springfield High School. Although he reportedly rushed and finished the play in less than four days, this play, “Competition Piece”, brilliantly imitated the process of putting together a one-act play. While this idea has been recycled and reused countless times, “Competition Piece” brings new life to the concept. Although some characters never get the attention they really deserve, the play manages to provide a very enjoyable experience through a great assortment of characters. “Competition Piece” revolves around three one-act teams from three different schools; yet, they’re all attending the same play competition. Each team is headed by a very different director: an art-school flunkie, the director who is trying to repair her own shattered dreams by putting together a championship play, and the 2 – 185 record basketball coach that’s been “forced” to direct the play. Each teacher has a very different personality, which is a very big plus. Tone in the written dialogue changes from graceful and elegant to desperate and determined, and finally to downright angry and annoyed as the coaches try to direct their weary thespians. However, this is the play’s only weakness. While some of these “players in a play” are very round characters, some are left with absolutely no characterization whatsoever. This is understandable, because in a one-act play, due to the time limit, you either have to focus on every single character, or focus on a few. This weakness is a necessary evil, but it still detracts from the overall experience of the play. You begin to wonder why some characters gain so much attention while the rest just sit there, and frankly, try to sound and look pretty. Fortunately, the actual play redeems itself with its content. The play flows very well, moving from scene to scene with each different school. The main hidden gem is the actual performance scene where the different groups put on their plays. While the text just suggests that during this time, each group should simply act out their play silently. However, this scene has so many possibilities. When translated to the stage, the effectiveness of this scene depends on the director, but if executed correctly, this scene could be the most hilarious, and powerful, scene in the play. John S. Wells has created a gem, but due to the abundance of plays on the high school market, not many people will get to see it. If you’re directing a large group of actors for competition, “Competition Piece” just may be what you need to get on the right track. This play is a very enjoyable piece that, I believe, could win any competition that it’s used in.