Unity Fest 2002 Program C

The Fourth Unity
Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank Street (358-3557)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 29)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Unity Fest 2002 Program C crossed lines of generation, gender, culture, and faith. In a clearly recognizable genre of contemporary lesbian and gay theatre, these clever artists used seven appealing short plays to create a world of warmth and innovation and a night of insightful theatre.

First up to bat was Overanalysis, by Gabriel Shanks. Although this piece began in a self-conscious vein, the show picked up with the execution of great moments by the superb Karen Stanion. Directed by Dennis Smith, this play revolves around a lesbian couple, a younger gay couple, and an older gay couple arguing with their mates about breaking up and making up, in the company of a bewildered therapist, played by Caitlin Barton. Matt Gorrek played a comical young chap in relationship purgatory.

The Hourglass, by Ryan Mark, also directed by Smith, starred Moe Bertran and Ivan Davila. The story concerns two boys growing up and occasionally crossing paths through the years, eventually ending up in a gay-bashing incident in West Hollywood. Mark's beautiful dialogue shone through the distracting staging.

Come Light the Menorah, by the very gifted Rich Orloff, was by far the strongest piece of the evening, telling the story of two Jewish sisters on the first night of Hanukah. The comic and powerful Stanion one-upped herself while playing off the engaging Bekka Lindstrom, who returned to the Unity Fest for the third consecutive year. Directed by Courtnay Wendell, the cast conjured up pure magic onstage as the lights dimmed during a touching prayer.

Christopher T. Washington Learns to Fight, by Jordon Seavey, showcased Bertran and Stanion at their funniest. Directed by Keith Lorrel Manning, the play deals with the gay ban in the Boy Scouts and takes a witty turn at the end of a courtroom scene. Bertran played the leading man who wishes to be promoted to an assistant scout leader in his troop but gets rejected because he is gay. The play's message is timely and clear. Renee Molina's lighting was artful and sensitive.

Although it seemed the program could have used a good 10-minute intermission at this time, the evening carried on with The Mutant Factor of Reconciliation, by Jess Carey. The piece showcased the fabulous Nicole Longchamp as a lesbian girl who wishes to become (and then becomes) a man, much to the shock of her parents (Lindstrom and John Jay Buol). Longchamp was fit and stunning as the protagonist and found a universal voice in her character's persona as she searches for her happiness.

The Beginning, by Dan Clancy, starred Lawrence Merritt and Jack Merlis as a gay couple in their golden years sitting at their table at a wedding reception. Directed by James McLaughlin, the show was sweetly innocent as the characters reminisced about their youth and lost opportunities.

Sound design was by Craig Lenti, and the magnificent set design was by the multi-talented Lindstrom. The costumes (not credited in the program) were creative but uninspired.

Donna Jean Fogel excellently directed The Seed, by David Pumo. This final play of the evening revolves around a transgender teen and a male student with gay male parents. Both kids get into trouble in school. The ending moments between Tom Johnson and Maxx Santiago were refreshingly hopeful, and single-handedly set the tone for this year's forward-thinking festival. Fogel leaves us with a message that although the needs of the next generation will be unique, the fight for human dignity is familiar and never-ending.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 Jade Esteban Estrada