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THEATER REVIEW: “Plays By Young Writers”

Bumps along the friendship road, immigration issues, finding a long-lost father, a fairy godmother with an urgent problem are some of the situations you’ll find in this 30th edition of “Plays By Young Writers,” onstage through Feb. 1 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. But connection (preferably human) is the overarching theme.

Sponsored by the Playwrights Project, eight plays were selected from 581 submissions for either a staged reading or a full production. Students were mentored by professionals and all plays directed by professionals in the field.

The plays are presented in two groups, parts A and B. I’ve listed them here alphabetically.

FULL PRODUCTIONS

“Coffee, Cream & Closure” (by Matthew Maceda, 15)

Busy attorney Felicity (“Feli,” played by Zion Dyson) mothers her son Sammy by phone just the way she was mothered. A chance encounter with a medium (who points out that “You’re a better attorney than you are a mother”) helps her connect with her deceased dad Hugh (John Polak) and (perhaps) change her ways.

“Crown Prince Crazy” (by Alberto Cordova, 18)

Sixteen-year-old Benny (Eduardo Garcia) has spent most of his life on the U.S. side of the border. Now his mother Brooklyn (Veronica Burgess) is being deported and she intends to take him with her.

But Benny just wants “to be free and fly.” He’s been doing that in his imagination, where El Rey the luchador (Miguel Padilla) and TV talk show host Burton (John Polak) reside.

Will he go or stay? The playwright nicely captures the gutwrenching push-pull of immigrant life.

From Another House (by Eliana Pipes, age 17)

Teenage Marlena (Whitney Brianna Thomas) disrupts the established family of Beth (Saverina Scopelleti) and Andrew (John Tessmer) with the shocking news that Andrew is her father, and she would like to meet him. Lena’s existence is a surprise to Beth, Andrew, their daughter Katie (Aliyah Malcom) and Andrew’s father George (Eric Poppick), and her arrival makes for some awkward dinner conversation. Are some secrets best left undiscovered?

Eliana submitted three noteworthy plays and has had a play produced at the Blank Theatre in Los Angeles. She is now a freshman at Columbia.

Light (by Ke’Ona, age 17)

Seventeen-year-old Ke’Ona’s touching “Light” explores family from the perspective of African American Danielle (Alexandra Slade), living with her Grandma (Kimberly King) in kinship care. Danielle, darker of skin than the rest of the family, gets the Cinderella treatment from both Grandma and her obnoxious brother William (Aaron Winey), who always manages to say the most cutting thing.

Her search for someone to care puts Danielle on the wrong road when she hooks up with boyfriend Daylin (Marshall Anderson), tall, handsome, charming and seriously lacking in principles. Will Danielle right her listing ship before it’s too late?

STAGED READINGS

In “Best Friend Mistakes” (by Donya Sharifi, age 12), Lewis (Miguel Padilla) gets all grumped out because bff Harry (Francisco Brambilo) didn’t show up at his birthday party. But a little time and a spiffy gift later, he learns that sometimes other things can be more important than even your birthday.

“One Magical Day” (by 14-year-old Tricia Mendoza) is a fanciful piece that follows a day in the life of a young witch named Felicity (Virginia Gregg), on a quest to make life better for everyone, who she needs to find a deserving someone to help do that. Now. Or she’ll lose her powers. She thinks it may be Margaret (Veronica Burgess), who wants her to cast a cur.....er, a spell.

Will the young witch find out in time that Margaret is really the bad witch Dorothea and has nefarious plans?

In “She Remembers,” 13-year-old playwright Jerusha Israel explores the heartbreaking theme of loss through the story of 80-plus longtime friends Cameron (Kimberly King) and Brooklyn (Saverina Scopelleti).

Both have lost contact with other family members. Now Brooklyn finds she is losing Cameron to memory loss so severe that she no longer recognizes her old friend.

Techies will love “With Your Own Eyes.” Here, High Tech High North County’s Sol Manuel Garza, age 14, takes us on a virtual reality jaunt in which 15-year-old Trey (Aaron Winey), whose parents are “too busy to spend time with me,” have given him Rob (Marshall Anderson) a virtual friend who anticipates Trey’s wants.

Trey doesn’t realize how dependent on the grid he is, but he does long for human contact, and finds Uncle Will (not virtual, but not quite of this world either, and played by Eric Poppick), who informs him of a nefarious plot in which they have all been pawns.

These young playwrights deserve our support. Try to get to at least one set of them this week.

The details

“Plays by Young Writers” plays through Feb. 1 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Click HERE for the program listing.

Jan. 30 at 7:30 pm; Jan. 31 at 2 and 7:30 pm; Feb. 1 at 2 pm.

Tickets: (858) 384-2970 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.