‘Jersey Voices’ scores with direct, intimate relationships and some fun, too

By Liz Keill

CHATHAM, NJ – “Jersey Voices,” Chatham Players’ annual series of one-act plays by New Jersey playwrights, gets off to a rollicking start with “Knock Out.”

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This play by G. David Post and directed by A. C. Kennedy, features three friends who meet at a local bar for drinks and camaraderie. They are Jen, (Mary Morlino), Brenda (Elissa Strell) and Connie (Julie Anne Nolan), as they talk about their love lives (or lack thereof.)  But interacting with them are a hilarious waiter, Dean, played with glee by Chip Prestera, who can’t resist a few ‘knock knock’ jokes.  He’s abetted by Matt McCarthy and Howard Fischer as two other waiters. Although the knock knock routine gets a little tiresome, it’s all done with a sense of glee and outrageous interaction.

Then we have “Hair, Shoes, Coffee,” written by Eleanor Kennedy and directed by Dawn Afanador. In this scenario, Frank (Dominic J.  DeNucci) Frank observes the morning ritual  of his friend, Doris (Gianna Esposito).  There are hidden twists and turns in store. 

“Badger and Maddy,” by Dianna A. Lewis, directed by Arnold J. Buchiane, is a touching account of a homeless woman (Diane Gilch) and a reasonably well off man, Badger (Donald Calliste.  They meet at a bus stop  and gradually see through each other’s world for a sense of humanity. Gilch said in program notes that she appreciates directo Buchaine for “travelling with me from glamour roles to arrive a this beautiful soul.”

“In Reverse Order” by Eric Alter, directed by George Seylaz, involves Gordon, (Howard Fischer) and Renee, (Judi Laganga.)  It’s really the scenario about telling the worst stuff first.  When he starts telling her about his love for pornographic movies, she’s immediately turned off.  But, as he occasionally tells her she has lovely eyes or a beautiful smile, she starts to give this interaction a second thought.  Gordon finally reveals that he has so often put on a good front, that now he’s decided to tell the negative things first,   just to get them out of the way. Well, you can see where this might end up.  Once again, we see that appearances aren’t always the reality. The waitress, played by Julie Anne Nolan adds just the right interference.  

“A Dog’s Life” by Robert Scott Sullivan, directed by Joann Lopresti Scanlon and assisted by Eleanor Anderson revolves around RJ (Matt McCarthy) and Billie (Jessica Phelan.) In this scenario, RJ is the faithful dog to Billie, who has other issues on her mind. Still, it’s adorable, as RJ paws at her and encourages her to take him to the park. Any animal lover would absolutely love this play with its total commitment and sense of acceptance. McCarthy is hilariously affectionate as the pet.

“Zarg” by Walter H. Plazek, directed by Lynn Polan, has two women in wheel chairs and their helpers. Mary Jo Oakley, Christine Talarico, Lily Bauer and Dominick J. DeNucci all contribute to this interactive story of physical handicaps or illnesses and the people who care for them. Once again, we have fast moving dialogue and a sense of how lives change through their interaction.

“Jersey Voices” continues the weekend of Aug. 6. For tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit chathamplayers.org.  The theatre is located at 23 North Passaic Avenue in Chatham.