The Chain Theatre’s Winter One Act Play Festival-Program 14

Wronged, Photos provided by Christina Perry
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By Vincent Marano

The Chain Theatre’s Winter One Act Play Festival continues to distinguish itself by presenting a diverse lineup of short works that has something for everyone and, perhaps, a bit more. Program 14, with pieces by Francis Bogan, Diane Davis, Helene Galek, Jessica Gomes Lopez and Daniel Yaiullo, is a case in point. 

“Night Becomes Morning”, Photos provided by Diane Davis,

With a menu of plays that range from expressionistic meditations on the self to rifts on classic American works, Program 14 is a veritable banquet of creativity and theatrical verve. 

First up, Jessica Gomez Lopez dances around the loss of identity in her Unison, which finds an actress unable to distinguish between her professional life and her personal desires. Directing and playing the lead, Ms. Lopez may have taken too much on. While intense and thought-provoking, the play is narrow in its focus and perhaps additional collaborators may have opened the play up more stylistically. That said, Ms. Lopez swings big, taking on how an artist can be left adrift when her hopes and dreams become a nightmare from which she can’t escape. 

Conversely, Helene Galek skewers that classic of fatal bromances, The Zoo Story, with her funny and slyly subversive Requiem for a Bench.  What at first seems to be a paen to Edward Albee’s oft-copied masterwork, is actually a subtle commentary on passive-aggression in the age of Karens. Director Perryn Pomatto infused Galek’s hilarious and frightening tit-for-tat with great comic tension, discreetly channeling the “Central Park Birder” Scandal for maximum affect. 

David Michael Kirby and Stephen Christopher Marshall are perfectly matched in this tennis match of dueling entitlements. They could easily make an evening of it with Albee’s play as the second act. Dense with film references, Requiem… rescues the much-maligned park bench from its typecasting as “the scene of the crime “and makes it the holy grail for the genteel sociopaths everywhere. 

Helene Galek Requiem for a Bench

This was not the only combustible duo of the evening. Francis Bogan finds the humor and pain in two young men who share too much in his Buddies. A heady examination of man-children drowning in their own emotions, Bogan (who also directs) infuses his work with the awkward cadences found in The Office and Parks and Recreation, making comic what might be a sad end of a friendship.Zeke St. John and Joshua Danielson inhabit their immature and self-absorbed avatars well. St. John’s Zeke is spectacularly vacuous and Danielson’s Frank is almost autistic in his desire to secure a girlfriend. While at times repetitive, Buddies exposes the dangers in Gen Zs propensity for oversharing, with two incomplete people try to piece together a whole person between them, yet finding their actions have consequences and cell phones are digital jails few can escape.

“Night Becomes Morning”, Photos provided by Diane Davis

Escape is at the heart of Diane Davis’s elegiac Night Becomes Morning. Directed with a gentle and sure hand by Leslie Kincaid Burby, Davis’s meditation on connection through art and where that might lead allows us to ruminate on all the “if onlys” and “what could have beens,” in our lives. Two people, who know each other through one of those ubiquitous writing groups that seem to be everywhere, are out for an evening of theater. They enjoy the play to differing degrees and the clash of opinions trigger something in both of them. Was the groundwork for this night of passion laid (pardon the pun) in the class they had together or was it this just a moment of serendipity that neither saw coming? While the woman in the couple is older, the younger man is already defeated by life. Grace Kiley is stunning as a woman trying to find her voice and herself. while not sacrificing her passion. Dylan Blue embodies his mildly broken artist beautifully, finding the right tone of man who will never be truly present for anyone. Burby guides her actors well, choregraphing a touchingly comic Apache/flamenco dance to illustrate the fantastical aspects of seduction. Yet Ms. Davis never lets us forget that sometimes, a world-wind romance only makes us dizzy. 

Wronged, Photos provided by Christina Perry

The crown jewel of program was Wronged, written and directed by Danial Yaiullo. Seemingly inspired by Schnitzler’s La Ronde, Wronged speaks to the virus of grievance that plagues our times. A self-absorbed man, Steven, is rocked by a tragedy (played by Yaiullo) and becomes his worse self, bumping into a man, Ryan, who is tired of such slights. Ryan complains and demands acknowledgement of the offense which Daniel can’t or won’t oblige. Ryan leaves, unsatisfied and is replaced by Steven’s sister, Emily who reveals the tragedy that has struck the family. Steven lashes out at Emily and stomps off. And so it goes… The outrage at being “wronged” spreads like wildfire until someone can say they are sorry. Funny and expertly acted by an amazing group of actors, Yaiullo has delivered a hysterical treatise on how little it takes to stop the bleeding of social discontent. Wronged shows us the potential of one act plays, entertaining an audience while helping them remove their heads from their own behinds.

Wronged, Photos provided by Christina Perry


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