The Performant: This shit is bananas

BOA strikes again

As the banal, chart-topping strains of Taio Cruz fill the theatre, a whirlwind of pink sportswear and bared teeth commandeers the stage. This is a moment in the evening survivors of BOA X, last year’s edition of the Bay One Acts Festival, have been waiting for.

Onstage, the “dumplings” Sarah Moser, Molly Holcomb, and Megan Trout throw their hands in the air and stomp with menacing playfulness, as their wimpy Daddy (Myron Freedman), grips his magic remote control like a drowning man. A standalone sequel to last year’s “A Three Little Dumpling’s Adventure”, Megan Cohen’s “Three Little Dumplings go Bananas,” is a worthy successor, building disturbingly on themes brought up in the previous incarnation: the perils of pop culture, most particularly in regards to television, the search for self (to the dulcet tones of Gwen Stefani crooning “this shit is bananas”), the horrors of sibling rivalry, and the feral joys of cannibalism all make a protracted reprise.

As disarmingly cute as they are blood-curdlingly vicious, the dumplings somehow manage to agree to band together—just in time to find themselves forced out into the real world, setting the stage for yet another sequel, which I suspect Cohen will happily provide in the future.

Dumplings included, the festival’s offerings can be likened to those of a dim sum cart, piled high with goodies. Split into two separate programs which run on alternating nights, the festival includes vignettes as short as ten minutes, and others inching closer to thirty (I regret I didn’t keep exact times), as thematically and theatrically diverse as the companies producing them. A fanciful, hyper-kinetic flight into Anton Chekhov’s “Seagull,” exuberantly deconstructed by The 11th Hour Ensemble, bursts on the palate like a plate of dry-fried chicken wings, while Stuart Bousel’s darkly comedic “Brainkill,” featuring one of the most hilariously horrifying arguments in favor of embarking on a conscience-less killing spree, nestles somewhere closer to the scallion pancake zone — light yet substantial, addictive and best devoured immediately without questioning its contents too rigorously. Ken Slattery’s sweet and savory “Death to the Audience,” is a good solid pork bun of a short play, full of clever lines and the enjoyable swagger of Andrew Calabrese as Mars, whereas Erin Bregman’s “I.S.O. Explosive Possibility” and Amy Sass’ “Maybe Baby,” stand in for the ambiguously jellied confections, silky and wriggling, playful and unusual.

Founded in 2001, BOA has become one of the premiere forums in the Bay Area for forging connections between small, independent theatre companies and their talent pool, and it’s not unusual to see combinations of actors, directors, and technicians banding together again in one or another full-length production later in the year. It’s also an excellent tasting platter for their prospective audiences who get to sample a bit of what each company and playwright is about, before committing to a full-length repast. Food metaphors aside, it’s also a good way to get a few top-40 hits that should-never-have-been stuck in your head, at least whenever the three little dumplings are onstage (thanks guys!), but given the context, it’s a forgivable peccadillo.

BOA X continues through May 12, more details here.