By Heidi Sutton
After a two-year delay because of COVID, the Festival of One-Act Plays returns to Theatre Three in all its glory. Now in its 23rd year, the One-Acts are a wonderful opportunity for audiences to watch actors hone their craft up close and personal on the theater’s Second Stage. The festival opened last Sunday for a 10-performance run.
Festival founder and Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel was tasked with selecting six original works from over 500 submissions and then selected an uber talented cast to tell their story. Fantastic costumes designed by Jason Allyn (with special mention to The Beat Goes On) tie it all together resulting in an incredible evening of live theater.
“For the first time on any stage, these works come to life,” said Sanzel. “How challenging and exciting to present a unique universe in the space of no more than 25 minutes—and often as short as ten…” in a two-hour marathon in the cozy setting of The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage, a space so intimate that “there is no wall. There is no division.”
The show opens with Philip Darg’s Confessions of a Successful Playwright, a hilarious look at One-Act Festivals of all things. Wade Lawson (Stephen T. Wangner) meets up with a reporter (Tamralynn Dorsa) for an interview to share his struggles, triumphs, determination and eventual obsession to becoming the most produced, but least known, playwright in history.
Next up is The Turn-Around, by Cary Pepper. In a constant battle with his next door neighbor Lester’s many assault rifles and gun range, Robert (Antoine Jones) approaches Lester (Steve Ayle), with a change of heart in their ongoing war over the Second Amendment. The Turn-Around addresses one of today’s hot button issues from a wickedly humorous point-of-view.
The first half concludes with the darkest offering of the evening. Joshua Young’s disturbing Bad China shows Nos (Steven Uihlein) asking for a favor from his sister, Reba (Brittany Lacy), which she keeps from her husband, Del (Evan Teich). A brutal portrait of the opioid crisis is played out within a dysfunctional family, where choices lead to harrowing results.
After a brief intermission, the show continues with Benign Departures, Tony Pasqualini’s vision of a national health crisis from a catastrophic perspective. Set some fifty years in the future, Dr. Elizabeth Baker (Tamralynn Dorsa) visits the homeless Maggie Elmer (Mary Ellin Kurtz) and a battle of wills ensues in which the two very different people find a common ground and a deeper understanding.
Ariana Rose’s comedy The Beat Goes On takes a peek at what goes on inside a display case at the Smithsonian, as various musical containers vie for superiority. Hilarity ensues as Cass (Sari Feldman), Trax (Steve Ayle), L.P. (Antoine Jones), Cee Dee (Brittany Lacey), and Dayta (Steven Uihlein) all hope for a transfer to the newer adjacent display case, leaving the audience in stitches.
The evening closes with Frank Tangredi’s Play Date, a whimsical look at fatherhood from two very different perspectives. The elderly Lou Gershwin (Bradlee Bing) just had a child with his second wife who is 30 years younger and 15-year-old Tyler Hill (Eric J. Hughes) gets limited visitation rights with his child. Meeting at a park bench, the two fathers share their stories and connect in a poignant, charming story.
With an excellent lineup and incredible cast, this festival is not to be missed. Get your ticket before they’re sold out.
Sponsored by Lippencott Financial Group, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present The 23rd annual Festival of One-Act Plays through April 2. Please note: The plays contains adult language and subject matter. Parental discretion is advised. Running time is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. All seats are $20. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com
All photos by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.