by Local Playwrights
Directed by Hovey & Turtle Lane Regulars, Authors and Friends
Hovey Players at Turtle Lane Playhouse / (617 ) 244 -0169
Closed Sept. 4

Reviewed by Will Stackman

For the past several summers, Waltham's Hovey Players have presented their mixed bag festival of short plays plus musical theatre interludes. This year this longtime community theatre joined forces with another nonprofit, the Turtle Lane Playhouse in Newton--one town over--to present three different programs twice each on two weekends. A list of plays, musicals, and songs can be found at the end of this review. All six evenings, however, started off with a number, appropriately entitled "Keep It Brief", by versatile Jerry Bisantz, the Artistic Director of the series. This parody soft-shoe was sung and danced by four chorines in sequins and himself in a tux jacket and boxer shorts, an ideal start to an evening with cabaret seating and the bar open all the way through.

Each of the three programs contained a mix of short plays ranging from the serious to the darkly comic, interspersed with songs mostly from musicals in progress, then ending with one of two mini-musicals; Bisantz's "Romance 101" (music and lyrics by Steve Gilbane), based on his piece seen at the Boston Theatre Marathon two years ago, or "The Purloined Painting" by Shari Ajemian Craig and Sarah Newcomb. This parody mystery in the Agatha mode featured Turtle Lane regulars James Tallach, who also directed several plays, and Tracy Nygard seen at TLP as Luisa in "Nine" plus playwright Robert Mattson whose "famous -small f" about a folk singer and an obsessed fan was also done, and singer Kathy Keefe. Nygard and Tallach also appeared in "Romance 101" along with Ann McCoy who played Evita at TLP last season, Chris Mack seen at TLP as Snoopy, along with Steve Lillis who was last at TLP as Tevye and JoAnn Powers, another regular. Jim Jordan, TLP's top comedian, showed up in "Romance"'s final number as The New Guy, complaining in counterpoint that he'd waited the whole show just to say one line and to be drowned out by the finale. Both pieces, still in development, derived much of their merriment from skewering theatrical cliches, musical and otherwise.

Jordan get other several chances to show his stuff, mostly in Monica Bauer's "The Klezmer Cowboy" done as part of the second program, about a bar mitzvah entertainer. He was joined in this sketch by Jennifer Honen, who played many of the songs each night. Honen regularly works with Reagle Players' choruses and is the studio accompanist for Brandeis' professional theatre department. She was a hilarious Jewish Mom soccer-mom trying to book something special--for $200. Bauer incidentally is currently casting plus sized performers for "The Diet Monologues", a comedy with music which will play downtown Boston in November.The dozen or so songs interspersed between plays included two from Eddie Biggins' short musical "A Fantasy Too Far", two from noted songwriter Rick Berlin, a trio from "Curse of the Bambino" 's Steven Bergman, a cabaret piece by Dennis Livingston and Steven Murray's crowd-pleasure "Mediocre Man", a duet where two woman got to makeover Jordan rather roughly. Several of the composer/songwriters involved have participated in Boston's New Opera and Music Theatre Initiative (NOMTI) programs, held at the end of each season. Such efforts, going on in cities around this country and in England, could well be the basis for the future of musical theatre.

Hovey Players is the homebase for Playwrights' Platform, so straight drama was also well represented. "Wounds" by Roxbury native Frank Shefton, whose play as usual explored Black urban life in Boston, this time its melodramatic darker side, had a strong young cast. This cautionary tale was directed by Michelle Aguillon, a Hovey stalwart. Aguillon, an IRNE winning actress didn't perform this time, but handled much of the PR for the event, besides also directing Tom Berry's "Next Fall at Drumlin", which got an audience choice award at Acme's 2004 Winter Festival. G.L.Horton's dark comedy about unemployment, Help Wanted got a premiere directed by Tallach. There are also two Red Sox plays, which always beneŞt from local partisanship; Mark Baumhardt's The Game of Life with two working stiffs riding the subway on the way to a game at Fenway and Jack Neary's Keeper of the Curse, which premiered last spring at the Boston Theatre Marathon. The latter featured a bravura performance by Patrick Flanagan as a crazed fan. Patrick Brennan, who shepherded the Playwrights' Platform Festival in June, performed himself in another of his political pieces entitled "Fair and Balanced" featuring point/counterpoint between talkshow host Pat Riot and NPR's Lefty Lucy and Jerry Zukus' song "Old Pal of Mine". A more serious political piece was Holly's Plea by George Masselam with Kate Bisantz as the ghost of a young soldier just killed abroad. In an eerie premonition, her father, played by Bob Williams, is about to immolate himself in protest. William's was last seen in the Vokes Theatre's underheralded "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" as Schmendiman. Incidentally, that venerable jewelbox theatre celebrated its 100 birthday Sept. 9th with a public rededication.

Other plays by playwrights whose work has been seen the BTM, Playwrights' Platform, and other series included George Sauer's "Don't Asp, Don't Tell", a parody ending to the Bard's effort, Janet Kenney's "Ma in Her Kerchief" a mother/daughter-in-law reconciliation, and "A Bloomsbury Proposal" by Carl Rossi directed by Bisantz. Gail Phaneuf's "Random Selection", from this year's Marathon, once again featured Bisantz as an unwary traveller drafted in a Kafkaesque situation and sent to Şght abroad, while award-winner Donna Sorbello's "Salvation" had meeting between a nun and a prostitute in a holding cell. These plays and their authors will be heard of again in the near future. It should be noted that this whole event showcases the energy and committment of playwrights and performers not waiting around for someone else to put their work on. The Artistic Director and others are not so much showcasing themselves as doing whatever is needed to get the best possible program on, including stepping into minor roles, directing a show when no one else is available, recruiting family, friends, and members of other groups plus all the administrative work.

Your reviewer recently joined the fray by submitting a slightly expanded ten minute play, written for the Boston Theatre Marathon but not accepted, to a local startup group connected with a community cable TV operation in the northern suburbs. Their one night rough and ready production was instructive and helped polish the piece. "The Fleamarket", an oblique response to 9/11/01 written prior to the current conflict(s), can be read on the Web at Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. Be patient; the server runs slowly sometimes. Constructive comments are always welcome.

PLAYS & SONGS (in alphabetical order)

"Almost An Affair"(song) by Eddie Biggins

"A Bloomsbury Proposal" by Carl A. Rossi, directed by Jerry Bisantz

"The City Is Empty"(song) by Rick Berlin

"Don't Asp, Don't Tell" by George Sauer, directed by Jerry Bisantz

"famous--small 'f' " written and directed by Robert Mattson

"Here And Now"(song) by Steven Bergman

"Holly's Plea" by George Matry Masselam, directed by James Tallach

"I Love You"(song) by Eva Kendrick

"Keep It Brief"(song) - Jerry Bisantz, written, directed, & featuring

"The Klezmer Cowboy" - (Musical sketch) by Monica Bauer, directed by Jennifer Condon

"Next Fall at Drumlin" by Tom Berry, directed by Michelle Aguillon

"Ma in Her Kerchief" - written and directed by Janet Kenney

"Mediocre Man"(song) by Stephen Murray

"Out of The Blue"(song) by Barbara Brilliant

"Random Selection" - by Gail Phaneuf, directed by Christine MacInally

"Romance 101" - (Musical) Book & Lyrics by Jerry Bisantz
   Music & Lyrics by Steve Gilbane

"Salvation" by Donna Sorbello, directed by Marc Miller

"Seriously" - by Laura DeCesare, directed by Deidre Purcell

"So This Is How It Ends"(song) by Ed Biggins

"The Thing About Ballast" by Susan Leonard, directed by Darran Evans

"Your Kiss on My Lips" by Christopher Lockheardt , directed by Gordon Ellis

"Xmas Eve"(song) by Rick Berlin,

Underlining indicates participation in more than one show.

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