The connecting fiber of the four one-act plays that make up A Night In Artist's Hell is Theatre: Theatre as metaphor and Theatre as a way of life. This could have easily been just a vanity production for its founders Ayesha Hakeem and Compton J. Chester, but it succeeded by means of its humor and pathos.
In Top of 16, by Ken Dashow, Hope (Ms. Hakeem) and James (Mr. Chester) are stuck on page 16 of the script they are rehearsing for. Their director Tony (Stacey Robinson) is unhappy because James will not allow himself to feel the pain that is inflicted on him. Although the play is on the pat side, it was acted with finesse by its cast and directed with a strong comic hand by Mr. Patton.
Impromptu, by Tad Mosel, takes theatre as a metaphor very seriously. Winifred (Lynn Battaglia), Ernest (Kevin W. Hauver), Tony (Mr. Chester) and Lora (Ms. Hakeem) are the players who show up on stage and realize they haven't been given a script - only a few clues from the stage manager. The players were superb and the directing by Mr. Patton was lyrical and precise.
The scene (Act I, scene 2) from Claptrap is about a very strange actor named Harvey (Wade Gasque), who is on his way to an audition when he meets Sybil (Ms. Hakeem). Clearly a strong piece for Mr. Gasque, who showed off his considerable acting talents. Will Nolan directed the play with comic panache.
The strongest piece of the evening was Advice to the Players, by Bruce Bonafede. Oliver (Mr. Chester) and Robert (Mr. Robinson) are rehearsing "Waiting for Godot" when Randall (Mr. Hauver) shows up and threatens the play's director, J. Tyler (Ms. Battaglia), with a protest because Oliver and Robert are South African. The acting by the cast, including Laurie Motz as the stage manager and Ms. Hakeem as a South African refugee, was nothing short of expert, and the directing by Mr. Patton was sublime.
A bonus was Movers & Shakers Moving Company, by Will Nolan. The witty banter between Mr. Gasque, Melissa McKee, Roxy Becker, and Brian Hyman in between plays was campy and funny and set a playful tone for the evening.
The lighting and sound, by Meika Kan and Jason Livingston,
were competent, and the stage art work by Shareef Bouchet
and uncredited costumes added dimension to the good work on stage.
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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath