Playfest 2012 is ‘astounding’ | Theater review

by TOM WELCH

Special to the Sounder

The Actors Theater of Orcas Island’s Playfest 2012 opened at the Grange last Friday to an audience eager for entertainment. Seven plays, written, directed and performed by Orcas Islanders, offered glimpses of talents that seem astounding for a community our size.

It’s funny how people you know in one way can completely surprise you by acting differently. Peter Vinson’s glowering at Olivia Roseberry and Zack Knight in Indy Zoeller’s clever play “Diminished Thirds” left an impression that won’t leave me soon, and I won’t see Larry Coddington the same way again after experiencing him in “It’s All About The Breath.” I had thought that Luann Pamatian and Cara Russell are both sane, reasonable people, but now I see that I’ve been mistaken. Anyone who could write (Pamatian) or direct (Russell) this play, “It’s All About The Breath,” is a dangerous person.

The damaging weight of responsibility and differing family perspectives are the strong themes of “The Waiting Room,” written by Jackie Bates and tightly directed by Ron Herman, while writer’s block dominates the story line of Russell’s “Thought For Food.” Gary Bauder channels most of Star Wars in Michele Griskey’s comedic “May The Force,” helping Pat Ayers and the inimitable Freddy Hinkle deal with marriage and responsibility. All of these plays, some written by first-time authors and directed by novice directors, were engaging treatments of familiar human experiences.

Two of the evening’s offerings were quite different, each remarkable in its own way. Lin McNulty wrote a sensitive treatment of a dark family secret in “Square One,” with strong performances by Maria Massey and Rebecca Ferrell. McNulty’s powerful writing and a tough subject create a taut, tense adult drama under Doug Bechtel’s direction. Possibly the finest, most intense moments of the evening were seen in Ron Herman’s incredible “Held,” performed by Suzanne Gropper and Vanessa Ryder. Patty Monaco directed an absolutely transcending performance by Gropper.

See Playfest 2012 at the Grange, 7:30 p.m., May 11-13. Tickets are $5 at the door.