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Stage and Screen: The PlayGround Film Festival Commits Plays to Celluloid 

Wednesday, May 1 2013

Anthology films are always a dicey proposition (witness last year's disjointed and overly slick Stars in Shorts), but the second annual PlayGround Film Festival gets it right. Featuring six short films based on equally short plays by Bay Area playwrights — all of which have been performed in the long-running PlayGround Festival — what's special about the film incarnation (beyond the fact that there isn't a bum short in the bunch) is that they're each followed by a mini-doc of the original writer discussing the filmmaking process and initial inspiration, usually tracing it back to PlayGround workshop prompts such as "State of the Union" or "Randomness." Highlights include the short Climax, filled with the sort of Noel Coward-inspired, cocktail-fueled banter that's among playwright Sean Owens' specialties, while Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos uses multiple perspectives and styles as a group of high school students piece together just what happened the night their librarian decided to take a chance. But all the shorts are entertaining and thought-provoking, and both the playwright mini-docs and the introduction by PlayGround's artistic director Jim Kleinman give the PlayGround Film Festival a cohesion and intimacy these collections usually lack. And clocking in at just 75 minutes, it's every bit as satisfying as most films twice as long with just one story.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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