(l-r) Innvar, Stauffer and Mazzie in You were great:
(l-r) Vernon, Rauscher, Roper and Katzer in Play by
by Play: Crossroads
of one-act plays by Jesse Waldinger, Brian Dykstra, Rebekah
Lopata, Michael Whistler, William Bordon, Deborah Margolin
and Rich Orloff; directed by Abby Lee and Laura Margolis
Stageworks/Hudson, through Oct. 11; GE Theater at Proctors,
were great,” Chuck (Rich ard Vernon) says, popping his head
out from under the covers on the bed centerstage, a big smile
lingering cunningly on his face.
were great,” Angela (Angela Rauscher) coos immediately to
Chuck, her smile framed by her luscious chestnut curls as
the covers slide off.
were great, too,” Tena (Linda Roper) moans with impeccable
timing, the covers eased back to reveal her satisfied smile
as the audience gasps and laughs simultaneously.
what about me?” the lump of covers on the right side of the
bed seems to whine as Joe (Ryan R. Katzer), the seeming contortionist,
squeezes his head into the light like a newborn from under
the twisted sheets and coverings. The audience spasms in laughter.
Thus begins Swing Set by Rich Orloff, the last of the
seven one-act plays that make up Stageworks/Hudson’s Play
by Play: Crossroads. Stageworks/Hudson’s annual feast of original
theater is always one of the highlights of the local theater
scene, whether performed at the start of the summer season,
as in years past, or at Proctors Theater in the fall as it
was last year. With an annual theme to loosely tie the one-acts
together, Play by Play: Crossroads offers plenty of variety
to its appreciative audience, even as it stretches its quartet
of actors. With typically smart direction from Stageworks
founding artistic director Laura Margolis and newcomer Abby
Lee, Play by Play: Crossroads moves swiftly through its seven
scenes of characters on the cusp of life-altering climaxes.
It’s done smartly before a series of images projected on a
rear screen, and the modern economy of stagecraft leaves plenty
of time to focus on what makes theater theater: the acting,
the dialogue, the action. The first play, Adagio Lamentoso
by Jesse Waldinger, centers on Peter Tchaikovsky (Vernon)
basking in the glow of the first performance of what turns
out to be his last symphony, Pathetique, when suddenly
he is confronted with what today might be called his “Michael
Jackson moment.” It has become a staple of the Play by Play
series to have a one-act feature an unusual take on a historical
figure, and Adagio Lamentoso doesn’t disappoint.
Those looking for a sci-fi fix will find it in Wired—its
last word, “iBrain,” sums it up. And in This Is What I
Wanted, playwright Deborah Margolin manages to straddle
everything from the headlines of Iraq through the ‘50s pin-ups
of Betty Page, and features a stunning performance by Rauscher
that will linger long in the memory. Tautly directed by Margolis,
This Is What I Wanted also uses the rear-screen projection
to best effect, and the lights, sound, images, and acting
drive in a well-ordered drill to its stand-at-attention ending.
Each Play by Play has included a one-act that provokes not
only laughter and appreciation of the craft displayed, but
tugs at the heart, too. Gunning for Life by William
Bordon, the Act 2 opener, centers on the wheelchair-bound
Roscoe (Vernon), who is dying of cancer, and his long-suffering
wife Abby (Roper). The play hinges on Ernest Hemingway’s infamous
shotgun, but develops at a crossroads far from the expected.
Gunning for Life is the touchstone of this year’s Play
by Play, and the benchmark is high.