BWW Reviews: 10TH ANNUAL ONE ACT PLAY FESTIVAL at Artists' Exchange
Artists' Exchange is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their One Act Play Festival this summer at Theatre 82 & Café in Cranston, Rhode Island. The first wave of the festival began this past weekend, and will continue July 24th and 25th. Featured in the festival are a variety of sixteen original one-act plays, ranging from satirical comedy, to relatable drama, and even some unexpected over-the-top humor. Written by fifteen local and national playwrights and performed in the round in Artists' Exchange new black box space by a fun group of local actors, these short plays will have you laughing right from the start.
The opening play, The Front Porch, written by Roger Lemelin, is a comical take on what happens when two siblings move into a waterfront home and let their incessant need to be mysteriously invisible to their friendly neighbors drive them insane. As a Rhode Islander, the scenario certainly feels as if it could happen in any nearby seaside community. The final screaming match between Pat and Molly, played by David Kane and Jessica Chace, respectively, gets the attention of not only the audience, but the 'neighbors', introducing the entire cast for the evening. From the start, the cast makes it abundantly clear that the goal of the night is to get the audience laughing and for everyone in the room to have a good time not taking anything here too seriously.
Between each play, a cast member hangs an abstract painting on a wall of the space. These paintings are all "Paintings by Madeleine". Created by Madeleine, an artist based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, each painting is available for purchase. Half of the proceeds will benefit Artists' Exchange and events such as the One Act Play Festival. Also featured between plays is a collection of music by local talent, under the music label 75orLess.
Following The Front Porch are two amusing scenarios focused on two very different couples. The first, We're Still Fun, Right?, written by Kevin Broccoli, details a young couple's struggle to prove to their friends that they can still enjoy themselves out at a bar late at night. As the evening continues, it becomes clear that they would much rather be at home on the couch than out dancing and drinking. Their final revelation is both laughable and relatable for all of us who have cancelled plans to catch up on Netflix. Next, in Anniversary, written by Sam Wallin, a couple on their way out the door to their anniversary dinner present their gifts to one another. Tension escalates as the two argue over the promises they had made to refrain from giving gifts this year while continuously attempting to one-up one another by pulling gift after gift out of ridiculous locations. The physical comedy of Tom Chace and Jessica Chace makes this one of the most memorable acts of the night.
Intermission provides an opportunity for audiences to stretch and visit the café attached to the theatre space for refreshments. During this time, entertainment by Jessica Chace and Lauren Annicelli is not to be missed. As their characters Tanya and Cheryl from Fixing Bob, which opens the second act, the two engage in a hysterical improvisation while they set up for the scene. Fixing Bob, written by David MacGregor, is graphic, hilarious, and definitely this reviewer's favorite of the night. As two seemingly normal housewives prepare a birthday dinner for one of their husbands, the conversation quickly takes a turn when Tanya opens up to Cheryl about her plans for her husband Bob's surprise birthday gift. While forcefully chopping vegetables, Tanya describes in detail her ideas to castrate Bob. While the audiences roars with laughter, Cheryl is completely unfazed and instead, surprisingly curious and impressed by the benefits of at-home-castration.
In contrast to some of the nonsensical humor, one play stands out for having heart and portraying an innocent human connection in the least innocent of settings: a strip club. Goodnight, Irena, by Rhea MacCallum, features Tom Chace and Lauren Annicelli as two lonely souls who find one another in quite an unlikely place.
While some of the plays slightly miss the mark, the overwhelming response from the audience is laughter and enjoyment. Everyone involved in the festival is clearly having fun, and it shows. A great way to beat the heat and experience an unconventional evening of theatre performance, the One Act Play Festival continues this weekend as Artists' Exchange wraps up wave one. Wave two of the festival will begin July 31st and continue through August 8th with Friday performances at 7pm and Saturday performances at both 3pm and 7pm at Theatre 82 & Café, 82 Rolfe Square in Cranston. Tickets are available online at www.artists-exchange.org, by phone at 401-490-9475, or in person, $15 in advance or $20 at the door.