Colors of the rainbow...

Unity Festival 2000 Program A

The Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank St. (353-3837)
Equity showcase (closes July 2nd)
Review by Andrès J. Wrath

The remarkable offerings from Program A of Unity Fest 2000 opened with Love Me or Leash Me by Jim Doyle. The play is essentially a millennium Guess Who's Coming to Dinner where the upscale Helen (Gisele Richardson) and Archie (David Weincek) are baffled by their son Ronald (John Jay Buol) and his new beau Sir (Lacy Darryl Phillips), who has Ron on a leash. The play was nothing short of hilarious and sharply observed. Director Donna Jean Fogel did an A-plus job going for the absurdity of the situation without cheap gags and forced behavior, allowing her strong cast to work the play's magic.

Crossing the River by Amy Myrtle offered sublime acting, especially by Bekka Lindstrom as the love-hungry Trina and Ellen Fabricatore as her "straight" sidekick who may or may not want to "cross the river" of sexuality. The play is very well-written by Myrtle and was well-directed by Lynette Sheldon, although the blackouts in between the scenes made the audience think the play was over before it actually was.

Franco & Jimmy by Roland Tec offered a look into friendship, set in the existential reality of a disco where the music plays into eternity. As the play goes from a lighter tone to a darker one, the love that Franco (John Jay Buol) and Jimmy (David Weincek) share for dancing and each other is at the heart of the play's strange and wonderful landscape. Director Dennis Smith did a good job getting to the play's mysterious quality, and Buol and Weincek made a terrific pair as actors and dancers.

Although Tony Hamilton and Matthew Gorrek as Pun and Zak also made a wonderful pair, The Date by Joan Lipkin could use a little more development. Regardless, Director Fogel was again topnotch in this very short offering that seemed a couple of scenes too short.

The best of the evening was Ten Memories of My Mother, In The Order I Think of Them by Charles Derry. This fractured memory play was profound and devastating. As directed by Dennis Smith, the play worked like a poem as Richard (Ivan Davila) shifts from memory to memory of his mother Rose (Lynette Sheldon). Davila, who astonished in Edwin Sanchez's play The Road, was every bit as terrific here, and Lynette Sheldon offered a brilliant portrayal as Rose.

Thazel Hofstetter Lives Here by Karen Mueller is a family reunion play where Max (Tony Hamilton) comes home to his mother, Mrs. Hofstetter (Ardes Quinn), and his sister Thazel (Alice Culer). At the heart of this play is the moving plight of Thazel's wanting to go away with her brother. Although the play was excellently acted and excellently directed by Jim McLaughlin, the play was extremely unfair to Mrs. Hofstetter, who comes off as more one-dimensional than need be.

The set designs, by Charles Kirby, were adequate, and the lights, by Renee Molina, were quite effective in setting the tone of each play and the entire evening.
Box Score:

Acting: 2
Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Sets: 1
Lights: 2
Costumes: 1

Copyright 2000 Andrès J. Wrath

Unity Fest 2000 Program B

Review by David Mackler

This was an eclectic bunch of plays, each of which had weaknesses and strengths, but not in equal measure.

Cherry Reds by Gary Garrison (directed by Maggie Lally) is more a character study than a play, but what a character. Lorna Ventura was brash, vulnerable, and totally winning as Lonnie D, who finally decides to make a move - out. Not only is she leaving her lover, but leaving in those bright red shoes from her high-school days. She's not someone you'd want to spend more time with than a one-act play, but her attitude is fierce, and she's hard to forget.

Hiding the Pink by Mrinalini Kamath (directed by Eddie Lew) begins with Joel (James Hay) and Sam (Matthew Gorrek), a seemingly happy couple, spending a day in the country. Secrets will come out though, and Sam's is a doozy - he may not want to be part of the pink minority. But while he's asking Joel for space to explore being part of the "normal" majority, he hasn't told his girlfriend about Joel. Joel, somewhat older, remembers too well the struggle to glory in gayness and will not accept Sam's argument. While it's an interesting concept, the dramatics are a little lumpy, and it comes across more as dialectic than play. And were they were all that happy as a couple anyway? Or maybe that was the point....

In Something Akin to a Restoration by Jim Fitzmorris (directed by Dennis Smith), the 21st century is a lot like the 1950s, and William (Ian O'Donnell) and Dave (Ivan Davila)'s courtship and life together is fraught with difficulties stemming from differing approaches to suppression. The stylized comedy is a scattershot combination of politics, theatrics, and discussions of old movies (including a dead-on treatise of the homo subtext of The Maltese Falcon). O'Donnell and Davila did the best they could playing these archetypal, speechifying men, and there was terrific support from Joanie Ellen and especially Giselle Richardson as the chorus who announce the scene changes and participate in the action as necessary. "Loving someone is brutal," Dave says, but so are politics and correctness.

Red Wait by Amy A. Kirk (directed by Donna Jean Fogel) is the most surreal gynecologist-waiting-room-play you will ever see, and one of the funniest. Short blackout scenes sometimes look at action from other viewpoints: there are more ways of playing scenes that begin with "Well, he does have a dick I hope" than you could imagine. Blood was a major motif; also the stunningly inappropriate painting at the room's focal point. Jenny Pringle, Bilgin Turker, and Leila Mansury shone in this bizarre, jaw-hit-the-floor comedy.

Too Much of Me by James Magruder (directed by Dennis Smith) featured a bizarrely funny performance by Ann Chandler as a mother who is a Christian and a former stripper who still likes to bump and grind. She might be insane, or maybe just a combination of accepting and hateful, but her son Vergil (Tony Hamilton) is all too used to it. For his lover Dennis (C. Richard Cranwell, Jr.), though, she's unsettlingly weird. While the playwright's intention isn't always clear, it is certain that this mother is a unique and luscious comic creation.

Production credits were solid, with furniture often doing more than double duty (set design by Charles Kirby), and lighting (Renee Molina) to fit each mood. The only crdited costumes were by Ian O'Donnell in Restoration, and they were a good match for the forward- and back-looking plot.
Box Score:

Acting: 1
Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Sets: 1
Lights: 1
Costumes: 1

Copyright 2000 David Mackler
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