Artists' Exchange triumphs with One-Act Play Festival

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Cranston’s own Artists’ Exchange has been a leader in the arts community for many years, providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in enriching arts programs. This is the 14th year that the all-inclusive group has presented their One Act Play Festival, and it is a winner.

Literary scholars will tell you that it is more difficult to write a one-act play than a three-act play. In the space of about 10 minutes the author has to quickly involve his or her audience in the message of the play and also make them connect with the characters. That’s not easy.

Director Jessica Chase has surrounded herself with talented, caring people who take the words of these talented playwright’s and bring them to life in the intimate space of Theatre 82, the black box theatre in the heart of Cranston. The playwrights were chosen from dozens of submissions from all over the country, including Rhode Island. The cast and crew range in age from 7 to over 60 and include experienced actors, neophytes, one absolutely charming little girl, and a couple of very special people.

The performances run about two hours with a brief intermission, with each play about 10 minutes long, the old adage being, “If you don’t like one, hold on a minute for the next.”

Of the 10 plays, I found eight to be very well written and performed, getting their message across, and the most difficult task of providing closure handled brilliantly. The other two were good, just not as good.

Chase immediately gets the attention of the audience by introducing us to the entire cast with a clever opening song and then going into a hilarious “Top Shelf Tolstoy” by Maximillian Gill, set in a small town library. Background music provides the atmosphere for quick prop changes between the plays performed speedily by a top-notch crew.

I try not to choose favorites in a play festival, but I must admit that Joseph Vitale’s “The Monster Under the Bed” won my heart, thanks to the heartwarming performance by Adriana Albanese, 7-year-old daughter of actor Nick Albanese (author and star of “The Last Sicilian”), who plays her father in the play. Watching Adriana interact with the monster (Kyle Martin Clark) is a hoot.

Many of the plays revolve around relationships, including the poignant “Up in the Air,” where you actually believe that Meg Taylor-Roth and Lauren Annicelli are up in the balloon, thanks to a clever use of a single rope.

“Putt-Putt” enters the world of an advertising agency; “The Stand” takes us into a prison; and others bring us into family homes. The brief “Family by Numbers” is especially clever and requires integrated movements on the part of the actors.

I must mention Kay Ellen Bullard’s “Game Changer,” with Tricia Elliott working so well with two very special actors, David Ferranti and Bob Macaux. You may remember Macoux as Scrooge in their production of “A Christmas Carol.”

I wish we had space to mention every single person involved, because it surely takes a village to accomplish the incredible task of putting this fabulous festival together. They all come on-stage together for the closing play to get their well-deserved recognition for this triumphant production.

The one-act play festival continues through July 27 at 82 Rolfe St. in the center of Cranston. For tickets and more e-mail www.artist-exchange.org. The ticket price is so modest many people left an additional donation on their way out.

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