Saturday, July 26, 2014


By Ruth Ross

Since I started reviewing in 1996, I think I have missed only three of the Jersey Voices one-act play festivals produced by the Chatham Community Players. Often, among the six offerings each summer, several soar while others fall a bit short. This year, however, to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, the troupe has selected 12 best of the best and presented them in repertory (six at a time). In doing so, they have given us a gift beyond value!

Grandparent's_DayThe six productions in Series A that I saw Friday night focus in the theme of love—in many forms. In Sickness and in China, written by Margaret Ruvoldt and directed by Steve Catron, a bride and groom's squabble about china on the wedding registry escalates into an existential struggle over the nature of their relationship. At the other end of the age spectrum, in Grandparents Day, written by Grace Wessbecher and directed by Joann Lopresti Scanlon, Irish Catholic Mary and Irish Protestant Albert recount their lost young love and the struggles they faced in forming their relationship—from the poignant vantage point of old age.

Desiree Caro and Anthony Rubolotta's dance sequence, Love Me Deadly, presents a dangerous side of love that ends badly for all involved. And Eleanor Descending a Staircase, written by Ian August and directed by Jon DeAngelis, the original director, hilariously recounts a woman's obsession with purchasing for her husband a print of Marcel du Champ's iconic Dadaist painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, that it seems no gallery or gift shop in New York, DC, Paris or Afghanistan (!) wants to sell her because it is considered anti-art and "we only sell art here."

The two final playlets take as their topic filial love. In Ebbets Field, written by Frank Briamonte and directed by Arnold J. Buchiane, a middle-aged man visits his demented father in a nursing home, during which he gets a glimpse of the man his father once was, an event triggered by the program for the third game of the 1955 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. The Run of the River, written by William C. Kovacsik and directed by Maybelle Cowan-Lincoln , reunites an aging father with his long-dead son as the two fish and recall the past.

I haven't given too much plot detail—just enough to whet your dramatic appetite—because each mini-production has charms and emotion you must experience for yourself, or the magic will be lost. Suffice it to say that, this time out, the performances and direction are better than ever—tight, fresh and delightful.

In_Sickness_and_Fine_ChinaMiriam Salerno is the quintessential bridezilla; Ken Vespasiano is equally as fine as her rather bewildered groom-to-be (left). Likewise, Geraldine Baillod and Howard Fischer (top photo), complete with credible Irish brogues, break our hearts as the unfulfilled lovers who missed out on shared happiness by the religious "troubles" in Northern Ireland. Judi Laganga is delightful as the obsessed art buyer, doggedly attempting to purchase that print; Brian Carroll plays the various clerks with cool assurance that he is right, thus turning the saying "the buyer is always right" on its pointy head!

Ebbets_FieldTake out the tissues for the final two plays. Michael King's very natural delivery conveys his delight at recalling the time his dad took him out of school for the baseball game paired with hopeful despair when Art Delo's Vince awakes from his Alzheimer stupor to talk to his son about the game, giving his son a glimpse of the man he used to be. Kendall Green is efficient yet kind as Leslie, the nursing home attendant (right photo). In the last play, Christopher C. Gibbs is perfect as the crusty old fisherman, obviously still grieving over his son killed in Vietnam and amazed to find the young man's ghost (played by Matt Lafargue) beside him in the boat. Their final conversation is moving without being maudlin; the two performances are equally first-rate.

The dance sequence, set to "Dead and Lovely," by Tom Waits, features Desiree Caro's fluid choreography performed with elegance and fine lines by Darius Delk as cold-hearted Charlie who preys upon women, killing them after wooing them. Katey Szabo is a naive First Love; Zetta Cool an elegant Starlet, and Melissa Kaban as the seductive Vixen—all of the dead but able to wreak revenge upon their killer.

Thank you to the Chatham Community Players for this anniversary gift. Writing a one-act play is much harder than it seems; maintaining a dramatic arc and actually having something to say in about ten to 15 minutes is quite a feat. These six writers, directors and performers do just that, in spades. Jersey Voices 2014 is a not-to-be-missed dramatic feast of fine proportions. Come hungry.

All performances of Jersey Voices 2014 will take place at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave., Chatham through August 3. Series A will be performed July 27 at 7 PM and August 2 at 8 PM; Series B will be performed July 26 and August 1 at 8 PM and August 3 at 7 PM. There is a talk-back with the directors and actors after each performance.

For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.635.7363 or visit on line.

Photos by Jill and Howard Fischer.