‘Four Our Hearts’ at the Phelps is flirty and fun

Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri

Grab your honey, whether you have one or not, and get over to the Phelps Mansion in Binghamton tonight or Saturday (Feb. 7-8). The Darkhorse Dramatists (read about them at http://www.darkhorsedramatists.com/) are offering up a very fun and, in some spots, sweetly sentimental evening of romantic theater. Aspiring playwrights should pay attention to this troupe, which offers a forum for new material.

This weekend’s program is billed as “Four Our Hearts: Four plays on Love.” However, by my count, there are actually six segments, if you count the two monologues, There also are creative segues performed by Deborah Fisher, who hosts the evening as a Red Hat Lady (or maybe just a lady in a red hat, which is pretty funny). She introduces each play by injecting a nugget about her own thrice-married romantic past.

I was privileged to attend the tech and dress rehearsal Thursday night and got to see most of it. Sorry that I missed “Don Wannabe” by David Guyton, directed by Mickey Ray (who told me he cast himself, like Hitchcock, in a cameo role), as it was the only piece starring actor/director Chris Nickerson. “Wannabe” also featured Teal Yajko.

“April in June,” written by William S.E. Coleman and directed by Nickerson, features Adara Alston, playing opposite Tony Yajko (the group’s principal). “Sunflower” by David Meyers, also directed by Nickerson and staring Alston and Ian Slater, examines the options available when romantic love is unrequited. Slater is best known locally as a stand-up comic, so this is a new place for him to earn his performance chops. Alston is a bit more comfortable on stage, but, in the context of this play, that dynamic works beautifully. She owns the stage when she’s on it.

“Fattina,” a monologue by Catherine Weingarten, is tenderly performed by the fearless and beautiful Missy Harris, playing a side-show act obsessed with the barker she addresses through the fourth wall. She is directed here by Tony Yajko in a very poignant performance.

“What if We Kiss,” a monologue written and directed by Tony Yajko, features a performer many of us know is the founder of the world-renowned dance troupe Galumpha. Turns out Andy Horowitz is a pretty good actor, too. In this amusing show about a couple of wedding guests, he plays opposite the smitten Bonnie DeForest, who does a fine job for the entire night’s production as stage manager, as well. She is busy with set pieces and props right up until she transforms into Amanda, who schemes to meet Horowitz’s character, Eric.

Last but not least is the very cute and funny “Donkin Donuts Themed Life Choices,” written by Weingarten and directed by Pete Bowers.  The sweet and pretty Greta Volkova and very goofy Tony Yajko are a couple in pure puppy love when Teal Yajko’s gum-snapping “whatever” character stirs up the coffee in their relationship.  She’s very funny, and Tony Yajko, as the corny, self-confident “jerk” (as in the Steve Martin movie) reminded me of Martin Short in his Second City Days. A must see.

Tickets at $10 are available at the door, and the show starts at 8 p.m. both days at the Phelps Mansion Museum 191 Court St., Binghamton. Note that some of the segments have adult themes.

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