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Eight short comedic plays will be featured in 8 by Eight at the Hatbox Theatre. Courtesy photo.




Quick laughs
Local playwright debuts eight short plays

04/26/18



 By Angie Sykeny 

asykeny@hippopress.com
 
Rye playwright G. Matthew Gaskell has made a name for himself in the local theater scene with original plays like As Time Goes By, premiered by the Seacoast Repertory Theatre last November, and Ray of Light, premiered by The Players’ Ring in January. Now he’s bringing something new to the Hatbox Theatre in Concord. 8 By Eight, opening Friday, April 27, is a show featuring eight short comedic plays, performed by eight actors. 
“I had a collection of about 20 [short plays] that I have been working on over the last five years,” Gaskell said. “I always thought it would be fun to put some of them together and make a coherent show out of them, and the Hatbox has given me that opportunity.” 
8 By Eight is “a show within a show,” Gaskell said, comparable to Saturday Night Live or The Muppets. In it, he plays a heightened version of himself as a stressed-out playwright who is trying to make his show a success. 
“If it’s like The Muppets, then I’m like the ‘Kermit,’” he said. 
The plays center on a variety of subjects and characters, such as truckers, aliens, gangsters, time travel, a “real housewives” radio show and more. 
“There’s one with a wannabe Wild West bank robber who assembles a crew that could not be more inept at bank-robbing,” said Kelsey Domeny, Gaskell’s co-director and an actor in the show. “The boss is trying to get them on the same page about what to do, but they can’t remember the order they’re supposed to walk into the bank. It’s really funny.” 
Even though there are eight distinct plays, all of the characters exist within the same universe and may be connected in some way, but you’ll have to see the show to find out, Domeny said.  
As a director, Domeny has been eager to work on one of Gaskell’s plays. His comedic style is easily recognizable, she said, by its wit and cleverness. 
“The stories that his characters tell and the twists that his plots can take are surprising and unexpected,” she said. “They look at the world in this ridiculous way. It’s a lot of controlled chaos.” 
Gaskell, Domeny and the six other actors play more than 30 characters throughout the show. It was a challenge, Domeny said, to find actors capable of taking on such a wide range of roles. 
“But I think we nailed it. We got an awesome cast,” she said. “The audience is going to be really impressed with their energy and the variety in their delivery and the creativity that they bring to each character.” 
The fast-paced nature of the show — each play is 10 to 15 minutes long — and the fact that it has eight different settings made it impractical for Gaskell and Domeny to create a detailed set or incorporate complex lighting and sound effects. 
Instead, they’ve limited the set to bare essentials like tables and chairs and focused their energies on costumes, props and quality acting. 
“It’s interesting to see the actors take over the space and make it what they need it to be for 10 minutes without some huge spectacle,” Domeny said. “They’re really paring down theater to its most basic form: the interaction between the actors and the audience.” 





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