Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
Although you can’t still see the full range of works featured in the 11th annual Playwrights and Artists Festival, you still have an opportunity to see how some of the participating playwrights were inspired by intriguing pieces of art to create short, compelling plays. Final performances are tonight and Sunday at the Know Theatre in Binghamton.
But this is the most important part: Go for the plays, but stay for the panel discussions at the end. You will be able to say what you think, good and bad, to the persons most likely to have a vested interest in improving these brand new works: the playwrights themselves.
On opening night last weekend, I saw plays inspired by Being and Time by Gordon Lee, which features on a vibrant, dark pink field such disparate painted elements as a passport, a Polaroid of a boat, a calculator, an Instamatic camera (complete with flash cube) and an empty Filet-o-Fish sandwich box from McDonald’s. Each iconic object in the painting means something to the artist that is so far flung from the fertile imaginations of the many playwrights who submitted a play based on this evocative work, and from those whose plays were chosen: Joe Brofcak and Samantha Charlip.
Brofcak’s City of Strangers is about the aftermath of 9/11, years later, for an agoraphobic woman and a man who may be a closet Jihadist. Annie Fabiano and Joe Ponterio were well cast and believable in the developing script. Bill Snyder was the postman who compassionately delivers mail to Fabiano’s character. She did a great job miming unlocking a door and sounding, while on a “phone,” like she was really talking to someone else. The play was directed by Know’s artistic director and founder, Tim Gleason. Susan Stevens and Rick Bocek completed the cast, taking charge of their roles as an emotionally abusive mother and a building superintendent, while not overplaying either important part.
Charlip’s One Universal You is about a jilted woman (Qiana Watson fresh from her brilliant turn as Nursie in Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carre). She is sad over her boyfriend breaking up with her and meets a new man even as she is bawling over the last one. These two strangers explore the notion of who people choose to be, depending on the audience they have at the moment or the person they are with. The pair bond, sort of, over their agreed-upon acceptance of one another, for less than universal agendas. Pierre O’Farrell is fine as the disheveled gentleman in this fresh, clever script.
The play was directed by Joe Andrews, who recently played the title character in Know’s version of The Rainmaker. Playwright Charlis joined the discussion via SKYPE, which meant she appeared, a little eerily, as a talking head on a bar stool, but she received the comments from the audience with apparent gratitude.
The other two paintings, which Tim Gleason chose, with the help Binghamton artist and gallery owner Anthony Brunelli, to inspire submissions are Last Creek by Steve Carver, which to my eye looks like a muted homage to Grant Wood’s American Gothic (muted because the man and woman in the painting have no mouths) and Barney Ross and the Renaissance or The Art of Boxing by Wayne Claypatch. The later is an image of a pugilist sparring with no one in particular in front of what look like nudes from, perhaps, the sketch pad of da Vinci.
The Carver work inspired Need a Ride by Will Carter, directed by Amy L. Smith and starring Carinne Vizvary and Dave Merrell, and The Postcard by Arthur Wayne Glowka, directed by Eliie DeAmor and featuring Lynette Daniels? and, once again, Pierre O’Farrell.
The Claypatch painting inspired Triptych by Aoise Stratford, directed by Josh Sedelmeyer and featuring ?Emily Goodell, Brian Nayor and Jessica Nogaret, and Fight (For Me) by Maria DeLucia-Evans, directed by Santino DeAngelo and performed by Eric Michael Patten and ?Joanna Patchett. These two plays will be presented at 8 p.m. Sunday; City of Strangers and One Universal You will be presented at 8 p.m. today
Tickets are $10 at the door. Know is located at 74 Carroll St., Binghamton, in the old fire house, with parking across the street.