Baldwin New Play Festival

    Gas House Baby

    As its name implies, third-year MFA playwright David Myers’ “Gas House Baby” is a pressure-cooker family drama in the most electrifying sense. But like Myers’ past scripts, his latest promises to defy convention.

    “My play is about a young man who goes from being a son to being a father,” Myers told the Guardian in an email Tuesday. “His mother refuses to let him go and the two get locked in a turf war over the leadership of the family and the house. Things are made more complicated as the family home is on top of a large and valuable natural gas reserve. The potential for enormous wealth and enormous poison filter throughout the play and transform the characters’ lives.”

    Myers’ last play, “Small Prophecies,” premiered at last year’s Baldwin New Play Festival and was nominated for the San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play.

    “Recently, I’ve been writing about family a lot,” Myers said. “I hope that my play this year is a nice mix of a political hot button issue — fracking for natural gas — and the family drama. The Baldwin New Play Festival is one of my favorite things about UCSD, and I hope that lots of people come check it out.”

    At the Mandell Weiss Forum Theater Wednesday April 18 through Thursday April 26. $10 for UCSD students. Doors open at 8 p.m.

    Hookman

    Writer of last year’s delightfully oddball and sentimental “A Man, His Wife, and His Hat,” Lauren Yee returns to the Baldwin New Play Festival with “Hookman,” an existential comedy about surviving your first year of college (and a deranged, hook-handed murderer).

    ““Hookman” explores the typically non-dramatic: ambivalence, awkwardness — the intangible moments of life that fill so much of our days but are rarely closely examined,” Yee told the Guardian in an email Wednesday. “It is a slasher play where the title character may be more than just terrifying, just as death is simultaneously terrifying, mundane, awkward and awesome.”

    Dually inspired by a childhood ghost story and Yee’s own emotional ambivalence after the death of an acquaintance, “Hookman” translates uncertainty and teenage turmoil into full-blown B-movie gore. As the mysterious Hookman begins his bloody rampage, Lexi (Sarah Halford) must navigate early adulthood’s proverbial crossroads without being literally hacked to pieces.

    “Producing our work at the festival with the kind of production values and care that can be had at UCSD is amazing,” Yee said. “You ask for something impossible and, generally, they can make it happen. For instance, “Hookman” calls for a giant girl-killing hook that squirts blood all over the place.”

    At the Theodore and Adele Shank Theater Thursday April 19 through Saturday April 28. $10 for UCSD students. Doors open at 8 p.m.

    Santa Barbarians

    Set amid the semi-nostalgic throes of 2005 — the economic downturn, the war in Iraq, the second half of the Bush administration — “Santa Barbarians” follows four recent college grads as they face the impossible task of figuring out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives.

    “As they play poker, wait tables, hook up and get high, the pressures of the world grow until one fateful night when all hell breaks loose,” says playwright Sharif Abu-Hamdeh on the Baldwin New Play Festival website. “Nothing will be the same afterwards.”

    Abu-Hamdeh was introduced to theatre during his time at UC Santa Barbara, where he co-founded and edited the art and literary magazine Mused. His first play, “Habibi,” was an intimate portrait of a Palestinian immigrant family living in the United States, and was produced by the Campo Santo Theatre Company in Fall 2010. In “Santa Barbarians,” Abu-Hamdeh brings his poignant and humorous character studies to the forefront of our impending post-college anxiety. The play is directed by Joshua Kahan Brody.

    At the Mandell Weiss Forum Theater Friday April 20 through Saturday April 28. $10 for UCSD students. Doors open at 8 p.m.

    Cry Old Kingdom

    Winner of this year’s Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, Jeff Augustin’s “Cry Old Kingdom” takes place in 1964 Haiti, amidst massive political unrest. As Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier terrorizes citizens and Haitian rebels plot a violent overthrow, a young man (Maurice Williams) builds a boat with the hopes of escaping to America. He is befriended by a painter in hiding (Gerard Joseph), while the painter’s wife (Jasmine St. Clair) joins the revolutionary front.

    “In Haiti, at night, entire villages gather around fires and candlelight to listen to folklore from a single storyteller,” Augustin said in a statement sent to the Guardian Wednesday. “This tradition has heavily influenced my writing. The other worldliness, the power of language… but I’m also interested in our battle with history. How it defines us. How we embrace it or try to escape from it.”

    With the help of director Kate Jopson, Augustin’s “Cry Old Kingdom” may be his most personal work to date.

    “My mom was born a year before Duvalier came into reign, and left Haiti a few years after his son came into power,” Augustin said. “My mom would tell these stories about growing up during that time. I became fascinated with that era and what it did and has done to the people of Haiti.”

    At the Arthur Wagner Theater Friday April 20 through Saturday April 28. $5 for UCSD students. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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