J. A. Di Bello's Review of Talking With...

Corerstone Theater Arts

Goshen Music Hall

February 17, 2019

No Fumbles; No Turnovers

     For the astute theatre goer, the diminutive stage nestled in Goshen’s famed Music Hall has been marked. The props are cautiously placed and in the obscure wings is assembled a full roster of able thespians. For the uninitiated, let them know without hesitation: Ken Tschan, Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theatre Arts, has assembled a team of steadfast and talented players, as he faces an exciting and challenging 2019 theatre season.

A hurdle to be reckoned with is the selection of the initial play. In this instance, the free-spirited choice made by the talented and theatre savvy Evelyn Albino is Jane Martin’s Talking With ... Interestingly enough, the work consists of eleven unrelated monologues, each designed to be played by eleven distinct female characters. To that issue, Ms. Albino’s familiarity with Martin’s work and more importantly the company’s multiple yet different performance strengths prompted her to divide the cast: 3 males, 8 females. Note here, Cornerstone’s theatrical production of Talking With ... is more accurately and preferably referenced as a series of eleven vignettes. It is not traditional theatre! Plot, character development, conflict and story are absent. But it is unmistakably intense and admirably captivating!

Calling the signals for the Cornerstone team is Evelyn Albino. She is not only a part of this collaborative effort on stage, but she also serves as its unflappable director. No Tom Brady, for sure, but at the helm of this stalwart group of eleven capable thespians, Evelyn’s training, experience and ballsy determination make a winning combination.

What is revealed and subsequently learned by unashamed chatter? Each character emotionally and methodically disrobes on stage. A number of these sketches of human nature are actually funny, even silly, yet others are saturated in sorrow, but each reveals a blemished, scarred character. Each becomes more naked and insightful with every unashamed sentence.

The eleven vignettes serve as compact psychological illustrations. For openers, Al Snider’s portrayal of the actor in “Fifteen Minutes” is captivating and flowing with the anxiety that accompanies an actor preparing for “Places!” True to form is Mark Van Oesen in his poignant portrayal of the struggling son, who is forced to confront realities and the significance of life and death.

“Rodeo” presents Evelyn Albino as a striking illustration of a stressed young woman, brought up in the competitive world of men, horses, rodeo and more. She, Evelyn, vividly portrays those flaws that lie just beneath the dust and dirt, bound by sweat and the ever elusive 8-second ride.

True to form, B.J. Boothe is convincing as the character in “French Fries.” He’s firm in the belief: “It’s our dreams make us what we are.” Crystal Von Oesen as an actress in “Audition” forcefully displays the dreams and delusional aspirations of one who has had only a limited engagement with reality.

Brittany Pierce-Caiazza’s, another Cornerstone veteran, portrays a pregnant mom-t0-be and is frankly awesome in “Dragons.” Not patiently awaiting her turn in the delivery room, her struggle and pain are made especially poignant by Brittany’s portrayal of the mom who knows of a child’s imperfections.

Jessica Markman delivers a fine performance as the abused woman who views her scars as a badge of courage, in “Marks.”  However, greater attention to the “artistry” of her makeup is lacking. Donna Polichetti fortunately keeps the glow of the evening with her portrayal of Lila in “Lamps.” Her sincere efforts are seriously hindered by the unavoidable, limited space existing stage right.

Further and of special note is the lovable performance of Sue Mormile in “Scraps.” Ms. Mormile remains a cherished actor by those fortunate enough to have experienced her stellar performance in Miracle on South Division Street, which incidentally was also a note-worthy production directed by Evelyn Albino.

Deserving additional praise is Rebecca Robbins’ performance in ‘Twirler.” While bringing forth the circumstances of a personal and debilitating injury, she portrays a baton twirler who convincingly asserts she has, “..seen God’s face from thirty feet up in the air and I know Him.”

The “Handler” a sparkly vignette is forcefully brought down stage center by Marianne Ciuffetelli. Written and superbly performed in what one might guess is a back-woodsy Appalachian dialect, Marianne, as Caro, brings the religious affiliations and practices of snake-handlin’ congregations to the edge of the stage. The practice is ... “a century-old Christian tradition of worshiping God with venomous snakes, like timber rattlers, cottonmouths, and copperheads.” If oddly, that approach to salvation is personally appealing, take a peek at the Handler’s method in Goshen.  It’s a tad shorter ride than a journey to Tennessee! 

There is, of course, the technical end of a stage production, and note that Corerstone Theatre Arts is most fortunate to have the skills and dedication of Jacqueline Dion.  

Talking With... an out-of-the-box, non-traditional adventure in theatre, directed by Evekyn Albino will continue its run at the Goshen Music Hall through Sunday, February 24. Reservation are required: Call 845-294-4188 Also see:   www.cornerstonetheatrearts.org

     

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