Dorset Players show one act is often enough

Annual festival of stage shorts delights audiences at Dorset Playhouse

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DORSET - This past weekend, the Dorset Players completed their 14th Annual One Act Festival, braving more odd weather and rewarding healthy-sized audiences to treats not to be found elsewhere on the stage scene.

Part of that is the nature of one-acts themselves. Often a staple of college drama departments, for professional stages or sophisticated community theaters to have an evening of one-act plays means, well, you have to come up with a slate that will draw an audience.

Therein lies the trick. In a performing arts milieu where playwright and actor names mean everything to much sought after revenues, a collection of one-acts by one big name is not easy to come by, let alone getting the names on stage to commit.

This is where the Players have a distinct advantage. Not only is their community support strong and their sponsorships impressive, but even more so, the spirit of volunteerism and donation is so fervent that they can put on a robust fall-to-spring slate, something which is the envy of regional summer stock venues.

And so, in this slate, an annual one-act festival not only fits in artistically with the Players' mission, but also is just smart business. I was pleasantly surprised, for example, to see that the last day of performances, on Sunday afternoon, boasted a healthy audience size.

Given this, nuggets emerged in a two-and-a-half hour potpourri that was highly entertaining from start to finish.

The Improv Group, directed by Todd Hjelt, was educational in breaking down many different types of stage improvisation. Patrick Monroe and Tom Norton closed the act with a particularly difficult yet pleasing improv while creating a dialogue from slips of papers from a basket — prompts which had been randomly solicited from audience members in the box office lobby just an hour earlier. Alexa Manning and Erin Rachel further delighted. Great stuff all around.

The opening offering was the grave "Talking Cure," by Ethan Coen, and directed by Peter Van Haverbeke. Improv director Hjelt, Chris Kenney, Bob Stack, and Jack Workman took on a serious subject in two time periods with delicate aplomb, a job well done.

In "He Said, She Said," one of the all-time classic one-acts, by Alice Gerstenberg, and directed by Dom Degnon, Zoe Grigsby, Erin Rachel, Joseph Mozer, and Martha Jo Perkins, all convincingly took us through the pays clever twists and turns. Well done!

The more somber "Sorry, Wrong Number," by Lucille Fletcher and directed by Kevin O'Toole, was an acting tour-de-force by Players newcomer Lynne Marcus, who was deeply expressive in her anguish, privilege, and paranoia.

The fest closed with the hilarious "Wanda's Visit," by Christopher Durang, with standout performances by Dawn Goetz, Aidan Kennedy, Tom Norton, and Natalie Philpot, and was directed by Richard Grip. Philpot and Goetz were peerless in their polar-opposite renditions.

Produced by Lynne Worth, the principal crew of Trish Weisbrot (stage manager), Angie Merwin (lights and sound), and Cherie Thompson and Suzi Dorgeloh (costumes), along with a many-headed prop monster of all four directors, had the program moving quite nicely from, um, one act to the next.

Every detail of this festival is well though-out and executed. Even the intermission refreshments in the lobby caf take on the aura of an opening night reception and a celebration of who's who in the local area.

That kind of attention to detail is what brings people back year after year, and also adds variety to the company's schedule as it prepares for its final season show in May, the smash-hit musical "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

The Dorset Players one-act fest is, almost literally, a feast for the senses and, as demonstrated by its longevity, now a fixture in the venerable troupe's repertoire. It's really too bad more stages can't offer one-acts in this annual format. Those close enough to get to the Players' edition are fortunate, indeed.

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias @TellyHalkias

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