Three producers, five writers, five directors, 14 actors, 24 hours. “The 24 Hour-Plays,” an ever-popular Fringe act, returned to Writers & Books on Monday night for two performances at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. In 60 minutes, the group presented five original one acts, all created since 8 p.m. the previous night.
The only real prompts the playwrights were given was for the actors to show up in costume with a prop of their choice. From there, the actors were divvied up and directors got to work once they had scripts in hand. All lines were memorized (impressive, since some of the one acts had lengthy line amounts), and there was simple staging and tech for each act as well.
This year’s offering contained several standout pieces of writing, including “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” by Freyda Schneider (who had perhaps the most difficult task: to write dialogue between just two people). Schneider delivered a funny, poignant relationship tale, and Virginia Monte’s direction kept a palpable energy between actors Shirlyn Washington and Willis Ajamu Brooks. “Anachronism” by Ashley Valdes Garcell was the most sophisticated writing of the evening, and dealt a heavy historical blow in a short amount of time. Actors Kenya Malcolm and Jeff Siuda, along with Denise Bartalo, delivered the play in a respectful, powerful way as well. (Someone in the audience whispered an audible “wow” when the one act ended.)
Doug Waterman’s “Stella by Starlight” finished the evening’s lineup, and was perhaps the saddest; but most beautifully directed by Marcy Gamzon and movingly acted by Peter Doyle and Judy Molner, with comedic relief and a dash of teenage rebellion from Ella Lyons. It was encouraging to see four out of five acts were penned by female playwrights, and hopefully some of these — if only the ideas — will continue to take shape after this 24 hours.
“The 24-Hour Plays” will not be performed again during Rochester Fringe 2019.