Peter Davis highlights process of the playwright in “Parlor Plays”

Nov 18 2014 City Paper

The tattered corpse of a Victorian love seat hangs from the ceiling. Hardback books line the walls, cover the windows and fill the fireplace. A simple semicircle stage is set off by 20 chairs set up on rows.  

Simple, too, are the costumes, and a rare prop appears only when absolutely necessary.

“Every year for the last three years I’ve been self-producing work somewhere,” says the brick-and-mortar-less playwright, Peter Davis, who has put on plays in places such as In-Flight Theater and the Station North Chicken Box, which usually houses the Annex Theater. Davis says the main factor in picking a venue is to control overhead costs so that he can focus on the creative process, and make sure the actors get paid. But, in this case, it doesn’t hurt to show off his new work in the vintaged-out space of Church & Company, the Hampden church turned retail/office space, which allows various theater companies to bunk up for a few nights of performances and use any income to continue the restoration of the building.

Parlor Plays, which runs for three nights through Nov. 22, goes like this: Davis, a brand consultant as well as a playwright, does readings of his new work every third Wednesday of the month, and the best pieces become a part of the larger series. This month’s show will include one new play and one he has updated since he showcased it last May. Each play has two actors and lasts about 10 minutes, tops. After the two plays have been performed, the spotlight is turned on the audience. Davis asks for volunteers to come and read parts in the plays they just saw performed, and finally, everyone (audience, actors, and playwright) discusses the work.

“Orange” is a short about a straight-laced middle-aged couple who have been married for 35 years and are looking to spice up their love life. They find themselves caught somewhere between BDSM/role-play and a pesky safe word. The second short, “Be Professional,” is about two best friends. One owes the other money and comes up with a fantastical story in order to get away with not paying. And somehow it works.

“It’s like a good song,” Davis says. “In that three minutes, you’re creating an entire universe true unto itself with very dimensional characters, and you’re trying to move people to feel great joy or move them to tears, and I’m trying to do it with these plays in 10 minutes.”

Davis’ goal is to showcase his new work and get people involved in the creative process. “You have to care about the characters,” he says. “I try not to take a script too literal. It’s theater. We’re pretending, so why not pretend bigger, and grander, and be more expansive? Just because there’s an exclamation point, doesn’t mean you have to yell.”

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