Artistic director Laura Margolis has done a superb job of collecting a roster of short plays for Stageworks/Hudson’s annual Play by Play. The event is much anticipated each year and has had various levels of success. But this year’s offering is truly spectacular. There are seven, 10-15 minute plays and each is a gem.
“Adagio Lamentoso” by Jesse Waldinger tells the story of Tchaikovsky’s dark secret, discovered on the eve of the opening of his sixth and final symphony, “Pathetique.” Richard Vernon plays the composer with both grandeur and humility. It is a touching 10-minute glimpse of the great composer. Once you see this, you will listen to the gorgeous B-minor symphony with new understanding.
“Wired” by Brian Dykstra is a marvelous little riff on two young people, Angela Rauscher and Ryan R. Katzer, trying to figure out how to market a new, life-changing and terribly disturbing product. Dykstra is a wordsmith. His play is a wonder.
“Sweethearts” by Rebekah Lopata explores the relationship of two middle-aged people, Vernon and Linda Roper, who have not seen each other in 40 years. Their affair all those years ago resulted in the birth of a child. They meet again at the child’s funeral. If the play does not rise to the level of the others, it is, nevertheless, an engaging effort. I would have enjoyed a bit more texture in Roper’s portrayal of the grieving mother.
“Tuesday” by Michael Whistler is a stream-of-consciousness recital of a young office worker’s (Rauscher) take on her life and her sense of alienation. Obviously written before voice-mail, she talks into a telephone unanswered by a fellow worker (Vernon) in the next cubicle. When he finally does answer, she hangs up, maximizing and underscoring her self-imposed estrangement from the world around her.
“Gunning For Life” by William Borden, which opens the second act, is a portrayal of an elderly couple (Roper and Vernon) who are facing an expected but still difficult choice. The wisecracking exchanges between the two, who are obviously completely comfortable in their relationship, belies the serious nature of their conflicted emotions.
“This is What I Wanted” by Laura Margolin is an absolutely stunning abstraction of two people (Rauscher and Kazter) who are separated by two wars. Rauscher is a World War II era pin-up queen and Kazter is a modern soldier bedeviled and bewitched by her image. This is a play that should not be parlayed into a larger piece as some of the plays might be. It stands on its own, engaging and complete on its own terms.
“Swing Set” by Rich Orloff is a sexual romp that closes this year’s Play by Play. It is bawdy enough and combines the talents of all four actors as their characters attempt to assuage the dullness of everyday life — PTA meetings and church bake sales — and the complexities of marriage with the joys of spicy sex.