Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 33
 
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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Arts Council Hosts Inaugural Theater Event with Eight Plays

Dilshanie Perera

“I came here to meet the love of my life,” said Jack, played by Jeffrey Alan Davis. “And you are her.” The intimate moment was interrupted by a voiceover correcting his grammar, saying, “You are she.

The dialogue is part of playwright David Ives’s English Made Simple, which used a voiceover technique to instruct the two main characters in deploying appropriate greetings and innuendo during a party. Mr. Davis, who played Jack, acted opposite Jill, who was played by Barbara Hatch. In each lesson, the characters’ relationship changed, as they alternated between strangers meeting for the first time, former lovers trading thinly veiled unpleasantries, and people whose futures are about to be altered as a result of the encounter. Laughter from the audience punctuated each exchange.

The play was part of “One Act Theatre: An Evening of Eight Short Plays,” the inaugural theater production to be performed at the Robert L. Solley Theater at the new Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.

Members of local theater company, Chimera Productions, produced, directed, and performed the plays. The company was founded three years ago by Mr. Davis, the artistic director, and executive producer Drew Griffiths.

Mr. Griffiths noted that “Chimera Productions was formed as a creative outlet for our desire to produce theater and work that others were afraid to,” adding, “We wanted to see and perform work that took risks regardless of financial success.”

As an acting and theater teacher at East Brunswick High School, Mr. Davis sees a continuum in his work with Chimera and his work with students. He remarked that “teaching is as much an art as acting, and all art is informed by life, so yes, this work influences my teaching.” His cast and crew are frequently students who have graduated from his acting program at the high school as well as “friends from the local theater scene.”

The beginning of the process involves Mr. Davis and Mr. Griffiths reading and reviewing “tons of scripts and comparing notes.” They select work that they find creatively stimulating and artistically challenging.

While the themes varied widely, Friday and Saturday’s featured plays were all one-act shorts. American Welcome by Irish playwright Brian Friel opened each evening. Of the two characters in the play, only one, the overzealous American director played by David Sullivan, spoke. Being unable to interject a word, the distinguished European playwright played by Mr. Griffiths could only convey his displeasure at the American’s logorrhea by frowning or attempting to storm off. The play blurred the line between monologue and dialogue.

David Graziano’s Acorn had hilarious performances by Mr. Griffiths and Carly Weinreb as next door neighbors who told their story through alternating monologues delivered in flawless Brooklyn accents. Mr. Griffiths’s character is hapless, hopelessly infatuated, and prone to accidents, while Ms. Weinreb is a gum-snapping, confident, no-nonsense 18-year-old. Their courtship takes place largely via the laundry line in the backyard.

Regarding short plays and one-acts, Mr. Davis summed things up by saying, “We do love that form, and it allows us to offer a lot of challenges to ourselves and the audience.”

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