Strength in numbers

Unity Fest Program B

The Fourth Unity
Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank St. (358-3557)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 27)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Small-town lesbians in their 50s and 9/11 are not the first things that come to mind when thinking of gay theatre. Program B of Unity Fest 2002 exposes further untapped crevices of LGBT culture via short plays that seem to hold a little something for everyone.

Like Program C, the evening had a slow start with Madonna and Child, by Kenneth Pressman. A middling script, the piece revolves around a concerned mother (Lynn Battaglia) who waits up all night to have a talk with her gay son, played by Maxx Santiago. The play was engaging despite the recognizable lack of chemistry between the two actors and the difficulty comprehending some of the dialogue due to casual delivery on the part of Santiago. Director Keith Lorrel Manning made excellent use of the space, complementing Renee Molina’s exquisite lighting design.

Act of Contrition, by famed solo performer Dan Bacalzo, was the second order of the night. Moe Bertran and Matt Gorrek played two lovers discussing the idea of varying their role-playing in bed. Although the play is attention-grabbing, by the time the audience seemed ready to hear more the play was over. Directed by Nicholas Warren-Gray as a choreographed dance for power, the piece was intriguing. The blithe Bertran was very comical.

By Her Side, magnificently written by Steve Willis, is one of those plays that acts as proof that this festival doesn’t just cater to gay men in their 30s. Ardes Quinn played a fiftysomething lesbian woman from a small town who lives with her partner, but missed the revolutionary changes of her time by not living in the big city. Touching and poignant, the actress did an outstanding job of portraying a woman in love who knows she’s dying, and who is trying to find a woman her partner can replace her with. Donna Jean Fogel directed a sensitive piece, revealing the fears of aging for LGBT people.

The stalwart Padding the Wagon, by Gary Garrison, is a powerful piece and the dominated of the evening. The play reflects on the recent events of 9/11 and how the LGBT community was affected legally. Courtney Wendell innovatively directed. Manning played a touching scene as a man who had not visited Ground Zero after the death of his partner. Fogel portrayed a southern tourist who encouraged him to go to the site and then later is revealed to be an angel, while Gisele Richardson played the deceased partner's stubborn mother, who comes to make peace. So potent and clear was Wendell’s direction that the final explanation of angels was redundant and distracting from the delicate ending.

Perhaps, by David Pumo, is a hilarious comedy that once again showcased the masterful work of multi-talented Bekka Lindstrom, who was also responsible for the sleek set design. She and Mikeah Ernest Jennings played two youth organizers who come to their local politician (Fogel) on behalf of the teenagers living in Greenwich Village. Fogel and Lindstrom feel an immediate romantic attraction to one another, leaving the compelling Jennings in the uncomfortable position of getting back to the matter at hand. The dance between the two women at the end was clever. The matching colors in the costuming (not credited in the program) were also effective, and Karin Bowersock’s direction was spot on.

What I Missed in the 80s, by David DeWitt, showcased the very talented Tony Hamilton, who was very comfortable in his role as the monologist reminiscing about his life in the decade of Duran Duran. Matt Gorrek was completely transformed as the hunk in the corner and was hardly recognizable from his previous appearances in the festival. James McLaughlin’s direction was simple and satisfying.

Program B delivers scenes from LGBT life that are not always the first things thought of when one’s hand is on the buzzer. Unity Fest’s promise of new and innovative theatre is needed and appreciated.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 Jade Esteban Estrada