Phil Paradis writes in a mostly nostalgic way, bringing characters to life in different settings and situations that are as far apart from each other as can possibly be expected, but still retain a small town feel that is refreshing.
In his first play of this three-play showcase produced by Jim Jennings and The American Theatre of Actors, a young woman and a young man reunite at an undisclosed train stop and recall how their love affair ended. The play, “Whistle Stop Romance,” is tender and heartwarming, and the characters are strong and memorable. A young woman has briefly returned after five years of being away to retrieve her hope chest and upon leaving once again, is confronted by her ex, who realizes he made the mistake of letting her go and now wants her back. His excuse that he can’t spell and so was ashamed to write to her is both sad and frustrating. And his argument that talking on the phone was difficult because it made her seem so close when she wasn’t, seems lame by today’s thinking. Yet in actuality it brings to the surface how technology, even in the early days, affects our personal relationships. Justin Younts as the young man is strong and convincing. Elena Crociani is lovely and strong, but at the same time conflicted. Is she really there seeking revenge by showing him what he missed? I think she still loves him, but knows that his one big mistake cannot be forgiven. Sometimes the pain is too deep.
In “Racquetball,” a young teacher (Chris Ostrowski) is playing an older professor (Daniel Wuedeman) when the discussion of tenure is brought up. Tenure is a big step and usually a career changer for any college faculty. But in order to be tenured, the older professor suggests that the young teacher fill a college quota by saying he is a communist when in fact he is not. The moral dilemma is thought-provoking but not enough to motivate the honorable young teacher. And when that doesn’t work, the older professor suggests the teacher could choose to fill another quota if that doesn’t suit him. He could say he’s gay, which is even more complicated given that the young teacher is happily married and straight! It’s an interesting discussion and well handled by the two actors.
The final play of the evening is absolutely the most charming piece. In the play “Sunny Side,” a septuagenarian waves at an older woman he sees from a park bench and initiates an exchange that is at first a bit confrontational, but eventually quite sweet and hopeful. Patricia Hart as Dolly is subtle, feisty, funny, and very believable in her performance! Equally charming and lovable, and also very authentic is Joseph Leone as Seamus. From the moment that exchange begins and they start to reveal their characters, the two are absolutely engaging. That the evening concludes with “Sunny Side” was a great choice.
The plays are not long and the whole evening falls in about 42 minutes, which leaves you wanting to see just a bit more of Mr. Paradis’s work. It’s an evening of memorable characters, with sharp dialogue and a subtle nostalgia built into every one of these three plays. And it marks for a night of enjoyable theatre.
The sets are bare, the lighting very basic, but it proves that with strong writing, fine acting, strong direction, and clever dialogue, theatre touches the heart and mind.
The American Theatre of Actors at THE BECKMAN THEATRE Presents An Evening of One-Act Plays By Phil Paradis. A Special Limited Engagement, Directed by Art Bernal and produced by Artistic Director James Jennings. Today is your last chance at the 3pm Matinee. Tickets at the door only for $15.