By Heidi Sutton

After a two-year delay due to COVID, the Festival of One-Act Plays returns to Theater Three in all its glory. Now in its 23rd year, the One-Acts is a wonderful opportunity for audiences to see actors hone their craft up close and personal on the theater’s second stage. The festival opened last Sunday for a run of 10 performances.

The festival’s founder and executive artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel, was tasked with selecting six original works from more than 500 submissions and then selected an extremely talented cast to tell their story. Fantastic costumes designed by Jason Allyn (with special mention to The rhythm continues) tie it all together resulting in an amazing evening of live theater.

“For the first time on a stage, these works come to life,” Sanzel said. “How empowering and exciting to present a unique universe in the span of no more than 25 minutes – and often as short as ten…” in a two-hour marathon in the comfortable surroundings of the Ronald F. Peierls Theater on the second stage, a space so intimate that “there is no wall. There is no sharing. »

The show opens with Philip Darg’s Confessions of a Successful Playwright, a hilarious look at festivals in one act of all things. Wade Lawson (Stephen T. Wangner) meets with a journalist (Tamralynn Dorsa) for an interview to share his struggles, triumphs, determination and eventual obsession with becoming the most produced, yet least known playwright in history .

The next step is The reversal, by Cary Pepper. In a constant battle with neighbor Lester’s many assault rifles and range, Robert (Antoine Jones) approaches Lester (Steve Ayle), with a change of heart in their ongoing war against the second amendment. The reversal tackles one of today’s burning issues from a hilariously humorous perspective.

The first half ends with the darkest offering of the evening. Joshua Young disturbs bad china shows Nos (Steven Uihlein) asking a favor from her sister, Reba (Brittany Lacy), which she hides from her husband, Del (Evan Teich). A stark portrait of the opioid crisis plays out within a dysfunctional family, where choices lead to heartbreaking results.

After a brief intermission, the show continues with Benign departures, Tony Pasqualini’s vision of a national health crisis in catastrophic perspective. Set some fifty years in the future, Dr. Elizabeth Baker (Tamralynn Dorsa) visits homeless Maggie Elmer (Mary Ellin Kurtz) and a battle of wills ensues in which the two very different people find ground agreement and a deeper understanding.

Ariana Rose’s Comedy The rhythm continues takes a look at what’s going on inside a Smithsonian display case, as various musical containers vie for superiority. Hilarity ensues as Cass (Sari Feldman), Trax (Steve Ayle), LP (Antoine Jones), Cee Dee (Brittany Lacey) and Dayta (Steven Uihlein) all hope for a move to the adjacent new storefront, leaving the audience in stitches.

The evening ends with Frank Tangredi’s Reading date, a whimsical look at fatherhood from two very different angles. Old Lou Gershwin (Bradlee Bing) just had a child with his second wife who is 30 years younger, and 15-year-old Tyler Hill (Eric J. Hughes) gets limited visitation rights with his child. Meeting on a park bench, the two fathers share their stories and bond in a poignant and charming tale.

With an excellent line-up and an incredible cast, this festival is not to be missed. Get your ticket before it sells out.

Sponsored by Lippencott Financial Group, Theater Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present the 23rd Annual Festival of One Act Plays through April 2. Please note: The plays contain adult language and subject matter. Parental discretion is advised. The duration is two hours with a 15 minute intermission. All seats are $20. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com

All photos by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.