Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hovey Summer '05"

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note: entire contents copyleft 2005 by Will Stackman

Late Report on "Hovey Summer Arts Festival"

Reviewed by Will Stackman

    For this summer's Hovey Summer Arts Festival, previously known as the Summer Shorts, Waltham’s community theatre decided to move beyond the ten-minute play towards longer works and to vary the program by including short film projects. The films were decidedly amateurish though engaging enough, but didn’t contribute much to the program of live theatre. The mix with music theatre in past years worked better. Projected media might be better served by their own event. The six one-acts presented on two nights did manage to explore the human condition more than many shorter pieces have in the past. Several could be expanded into full length dramas. Thematically, half the plays involved the supernatural in some way.

     Kelly Dumar's “Hothouse”, first on the bill in the first series, concerned a brother and sister who'd inherited a nursery business from their recently deceased father. Karen, played by Leigh Barry, the producer for the Festival, has just arranged to sell their business to a chain, so she can get on with her life, and Len Jr. (Bill Stambaugh), who’d be willing to continue the nursery, could get back to their University and finish his advanced degree. The ghostly presence of Len Sr.(John Depew), a Shakespeare buff, is still about, commenting and observing, and in one brief scene, alive in a flash-back. To add to the family drama, in comes Tania (Michelle Aguillon) getting out of the rain and suddenly attracted to young Len, followed accidentally by her ex David (Bob Williams) who’s desperate for a wedding present. There are faint echoes of “Midsummers...” as the romantic comedy heats up. The siblings do come to a resolution and seem likely to pursue further relations with their two final customers. Developed into a two act drama with at least one more onstage character and more integration of the Shakespeare theme, this play might have legs.

     Frank Shefton's “The Father Hat”, which had a reading this past winter at the Theatre Coop in Somerville, is a generational drama about a retired Afro-American fireman, played by Wesley Taylor, and his grown illegitimate son, played by Born Bi-Kim, trying to come to terms with the past. It was the centerpiece of the second bill. This script could also be expanded into a full-length drama, more fully developing the character of the wife, played by Cheryl Singleton. Flashbacks might be useful to make the exposition more engaging and the two men more sympathetic. The play, directed by IRNE winner Vincent E. Siders, has a certain Wilsonesque quality which deserves to be strengthened.

     Steven Schutzman's “The Tree Man," a long duet for Tracy Nygard as Helen and Tara Brooke Watkins as Charlotte, involves the lives and loves of two women, whose children are having a play date in the yard outside. The title character is never seen. The opener on the second bill, this script, primarily a character study, could probably be tightened and would benefit from a soundscape including musical bridges between the scenes.

The second play on the first bill, William Campbell’s “Team Colors” is a different sort of duet; the developing relationship between Bobby(Gabriel King), an autistic teenager with Ausberger's Syndrome, obsessed with stats, and a jock at his high school, Mike(James T. Martin). King managed to maintain the difficult personae for the length of the play, which went on a bit too long, and Martin showed admirable character development from a superficial teen to an incipient adult. A longer version would require at least one member of Bobby’s family and perhaps a girlfriend for Mike. The inevitable mildly hopeful payoff isn’t supported by the current length of the play.

     The two remaining scripts both involved angelic characters.
“The Angel of Brooklyn” by Dwayne Yancey brought a visiting “nurse”, Anna Friend as Angel, to the assisted living apartment of aging Brooklyn Dodger fan, Bud(Waldo Fielding). He’s never gotten over his team's move to L.A. and swore off baseball since his early teens when that happened. Angel’s come to bring baseball back to him. The piece was well-acted and less frantic than many recent baseball plays, but could have accomplished its action in less time.
The final piece on the second bill, Glenn English’s “Looking Down” takes place in the afterlife, where Michael Peluso(Paul), a less-than-noble New York fireman, is waiting to learn his fate. He’s being evaluated by Sara(Sara Jones) and her new assistant, Ruth( Nicole Abate). The comedy is insightful and the premise entertaining, making the angelic believable. This script should show up again on community theatre bills.

    There’ll be another Hovey Summer Arts Festival in July’06, which will no doubt field another ensemble of interesting local actors tackling a range of scripts. Their efforts have been the most consistent and may have sparked the increasing number of such programs presented by other local groups.

"Hovey Summer Arts Festival" (15 - 23 July)
The Abbott Memorial Theatre, 9 Spring Street, WALTHAM

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