ConfettiFest XVII Puts Women Center Stage!
Last night ConfettiFest came roaring back to the stage with a celebration of women that had some of the finest actors in the Capital Region doing great work in five original one-act plays and in one spectacular, scalding performance threatening to reduce the Masonic Lodge on Corning Place to ashes.
The evening started in a minor key with the very fine Robin Leary being coaxed back to life after months of quarantining. The play was “Grace Notes” by Ingrid Madelyne and it was directed by Peter Kantor. The other two characters in the play, played by Deborah Mazzone and Amy Hausknecht, are just there to serve Robin’s growth. Mazzone is unfortunately staged in shadows or unbelievably behind latticework the entire play but makes her presence felt with only her voice. Robin, miraculously, makes the conversion moving and important.
“Orlando at Dawn” is a very diverting road trip by Judith Barlow, directed by Tristin Strasser. Kristin Crouch (so good in SLCA’s “Pipeline”) and Mathena Rush are Aunt and niece heading to Orlando with fun conversation, variety of action and not much conflict beyond which theme park to choose. It’s not for nothing but these two could make a day long car ride very enjoyable.
The evening ignites with “Desert Roses” by Sean Baldwin (Confetti’s President), directed by Yvonne Perry. From the entrance of Rachel Jenack as a masked Bandit and Sarabelle Wrigley as a bound damsel, this pulp Western commands your attention, mostly from Jenack’s alternatively forceful and laconic performance. She has a pitch perfect dialect, livewire physicality and a thoroughly imagined emotional life that made me gasp. That Wrigley can hold her own and even wrest your attention to her plight is no small thing. The play is jam packed with story and I’m not confident in recalling the particulars but it was never less than watchable, mostly due to Rachel.
Rachel Jenack shows up in a different role after intermission in Laura Darling’s “Gravity” and tops her own performance in the previous play as a sexual abuse survivor who schedules an emergency session with her therapist (a persistent Michelle Sanders) after an encounter in a bar that evening. The marriage of playwright, performer and subject explodes on stage. There were numerous times when I could hear Laura’s voice in Rachel’s performance, especially using caustic humor to “deflect” as Michelle says. The power and emotional specificity of Jenack’s rage riveted my attention throughout and what should have repelled me, her high-pitched banshee scream, only drew me closer because of the uncompromising intelligence that lived in every syllable. A performance that will live a very long time with those who attend. Michelle Sanders had a strong moment at the end of the encounter supporting her patient’s growth and progress by noting her call for help. The play would greatly benefit from rethinking the therapist’s role, giving her more agency and stakes in the encounter.
The final play “Eye of Selene” by Matt Reichel is directed by Ryan Gangemi and finds us in ancient Greece with two young lovers played by Siobhan Shea and Lauren Bobersky escaping their small-town life for Mykonos on the ship Selene but are stopped by Pylas (played by a booming Joe Bruton), the father of one of the young women. That the only man in the production shows up in the last play and has weak motives about his objectives says a lot. The two do not have enough opposition in heading off to their life together but they are super lovely and I wish them well.
ConfettiFest XVII continues the company’s tradition of creating many opportunities for actors to try on all sorts of roles, as a great training ground for playwrights and directors to learn and develop their craft and as a showcase for all of us to see the process of creating theater. The evening was two hours and forty-five minutes and would have been much improved by being at least half an hour shorter. This year had an exceptionally strong cast of women actors, especially needed when the bulk of the area’s stages are dominated by roles for men even though there are far fewer men in the Capital Region acting pool. Brava ConfettiFest!
Through 11/14 @ Albany Masonic Temple 67 Corning Place Albany 12207