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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Chatham Community Players' Impressive 20th Edition of the ‘Jersey Voices One-Act Festival’


A highlight of the summer community theatre season for the past 20 years has been the Chatham Community Players' annual "Jersey Voices One-Act Festival." This special 20th season, they are presenting 12 of the 'best-of-the best" selected from the 112 original plays they have presented over the past 19 seasons. 

This impressive production includes ten original short plays written by New Jersey playwrights as well as two original dance pieces to represent the 20 years of “Jersey Voices.”  The plays are presented in repertory style in the comfortable black box theater in the Chatham Playhouse.  To keep things simple, the two programs are labeled A and B. The schedule this past weekend was Friday Program A, Saturday Program B, and Sunday Program A. This week it will be Friday Program B, Saturday Program A, and Sunday Program B. The themes run from broad comedy to heart tugging drama to the challenges of love (and marriage!).

The two programs are divided equally with three pre-intermission and three post-intermission. The total time is about two hours including a discussion with the actors, directors and writers.

The fact that the evening consists of six separate, different themed plays that are obviously short and each ends with a nice plot twist presents a bit of a reviewing conundrum. In other words, we will only include here the author's description with no further plot discussion.

We attended a performance of Program A on Sunday night, and will cover Program B next Sunday. The A program is as follows:

Act One:

Voices In SickIn Sickness and Fine China by Margaret Ruvoldt
What goes on when a woman drags her fiancé to register for wedding gifts?  This production features Ken Vespasiano and Miriam Salerno. Directed by Steve Catron. Ken Vespasiano and Miriam Salerno (photo right) are nicely paired as a couple who are about to move from the state of "living together" to the state of marriage. This is a nice light start to the program. Catron is a very in-demand director with a growing list of successes.

Voices Couple Sr.Grandparents Day by Grace Wessbecher of Morris Plains

Two grandparents each narrate their own story by reminiscing about growing up in Northern Ireland in two different religions and therefore two different neighborhoods. There is an attraction between them that would never have been allowed but that was then and this is now.  This production features Howard Fischer and Geraldine Baillod (photo right). Directed by Joann Scanlon.  Howard Fischer and Geraldine Baillod are both 'spot-on' as the reminiscing Northern Ireland couple. Very touching story of the havoc the "troubles" made on many lives. Wonderful accents. Baillod demonstrates the acting skill that won her a Perry Award for her role in the Chester Theatre Group's recent "Blood Brothers." Ms. Scanlon's sensitive direction is also 'spot-on.' She impresses every year. 

voices danceLove Me Deadly by Desirée Caro and Anthony Rubolotta of Montclair
A lyrical dance piece centering on the romantic exploits of “Charlie” and his three femme fatales, cautioning us that, in love, everything has its price.  This production features Darius Delk as Charlie (photo right), Katey Sabo as First Love, Zetta Cool is the Starlet and Melissa Kaban as The Vixen. Directed and Choreographed by Desirée Caro. Nice change of pace with a story told via dance. Romance takes a nasty dark turn in this dance piece about love and violent death. Darius Delk is a standout. Desirée Caro is clearly a very talented choreographer.

Act Two:

Voices PrintEleanor Descending a Staircase by Ian August of Lawrenceville

Eleanor wants to buy a print of a painting for her husband's birthday. To do that, she must wrestle with what is Art, what is its purpose in life, and why is this sales clerk such an ass?  This production features Judi Laganga and Brian Carroll (photo right). Directed by Jon DeAngelis. This is a seriously funny skit. Brian Carroll is properly droll as the clerk in D.C., New York, Paris and Afghanistan! Judi Laganga, a marvelous actress, is an absolute hoot as the very frustrated wife.

Voices Ebbets FieldEbbets Field by Frank Briamonte of Scotch Plains
A cherished childhood memory is revisited.  This production features Art Delo as the memory challenged Vincent, Michael King as his son Daniel, and Kendall Green as Leslie an assisted living nurse (photo right). Directed by Arnold J. Buchiane.

This is a superior piece that touches the heart, particularly if you are dealing with this tragic situation in your family.  Art Delo is excellent as the father, Kendall Green makes a fine nurse, but, Michael King, who impressed in "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Best Man" and "God of Carnage," gets the MVP trophy for the evening. King would win star applause on anyone's stage on either side of the Hudson.

voices boatRun of the River by William Kovacsik of Singapore
A father gets an unexpected second chance to tell his son things he meant to say.  This production features Christopher C. Gibbs as Jim McCandliss and Matt Lafargue as his late son Tom. Directed by Maybelle Cowan-Lincoln. Both men are perfect in their roles, with Christopher C. Gibbs nicely demonstrating his pro level acting ability.

As with our two prior "Festival" experiences, the play selection, staging and performances were impressive. The entire event is another example of the marvelous acting, directing, and oh yes...writing talent we have in the Garden State. Ticket info is below. Don’t miss!

We will review Program B next Sunday night. That program is as follows:

​Ping by Mary Jane Walsh

A one-woman play that depicts, in a riveting fashion, a mother's unwavering love for her grown child.  This production features Teri Sturtevant of Hillsborough. Directed by Arnold J. Buchiane

Ties by Eric Alter of Livingston

A father and son cannot communicate with or accept each other until forgiveness for either of them weighs too heavily.  This production features Frederick Gallo of Morristown, Matthew Cronin of Chatham and Mike King of New Providence. Directed by Jon DeAngelis of Chatham

Tech Support by Henry Meyerson

A tongue-in-cheek look at what we suspect is really happening when we call the Tech Helpdesk. This production features Liz Royce of Cedar Grove and Kristin Bennett of Montville. Directed by Maybelle Cowan-Lincoln of Morris Plains

Couples Therapy by Amanda Mayer of Livingston

What goes on when a wife drags her husband to a marriage counselor?  This production features Colleen Grundfest of Warren and Lewis Decker of Millington. Directed by Steve Catron of Mendham.

The Fruppum, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce by John Dowgin of Spotswood

Two old codgers run gas stations across the street from each other since forever. One talks a blue streak, the other mumbles answers. One thinks they are identical copies of each other, the other knows different. When modern life enters the differences begin to show and the quiet one wins the day.  This production features Jim Clancy of Basking Ridge, Kevern Cameron of Hamburg and Chip Prestera of Stirling. Directed by Joann Scanlon of Chatham

Executive Dreams written by Don Howes of Morristown

This is what happens when inattention meets imagination in this rocking dance piece.  This production features Rachel Fikslin, Kimberly Jackson, Michal Efron, Melissa Kaplan and Gabriel Malo.  Directed and Choreographed by Don Howes of Morristown

​​The single remaining ​performance date for “Program A” is Saturday, August 2 at 8 pm; ​The two remaining performance dates for “Program B” are ​Friday,  August 1 at 8 pm and ​Sunday, August 3 at 7 pm.

imagesAll performances will be performed at the Chatham Playhouse 23 North Passaic Ave Chatham, NJ.

All tickets to each “Program” are $15, but if you buy one of the “Combo Tickets” for $25, it allows you entry for both Program A and Program B (one performance from each Program). 

To access the theater’s online ticketing service, simply go to  To purchase a “Combo Ticket” (tickets to both Programs), you must contact the Box Office at (973) 635-7363.  For more information go to  

It is highly recommended that tickets be purchased in advance. Patrons with special needs requiring seating accommodations should contact the Playhouse at least 24 hours prior to the performance. Without prior notice, accommodations cannot be guaranteed.

Cast photos by Howard Fisher

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