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Hurdles, Hustles, and Hassles: Part III

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The third grouping of Blue Sphere Alliance's third annual Short Play Festival falls under the heading of Hassles. Three original one-acts were penned by BSA members to examine the concept of people, situations, and/or things that can become disruptive or nerve-racking in our lives.

Richard Vetere's Holy Water, directed by Anthony Barnao, is the most comical, albeit the least successful, of the three in meeting this goal. Best friends Ricky (Alvin Lam) and Gino (Ricardo Mamood) enter a church where a religious statue is said to be crying tears. Ricky is dating two girls at once; Gino is on the prowl, even at church. Lordy, what in the world do they pray for? The somewhat touching ending adds a bit of substance to this otherwise light-as-an-angel's-wing piece.

More directly on the money is Julie Shimer's Red River Valley, a sentimental look at the burdens of family responsibilities and aging. Sarah (Shimer) is getting married to Mike (Robert Kotecki) but worries that the stress of the wedding is causing a decline in the mental stability of her widowed grandmother (Krista Conti), who now lives with her and believes her dead husband (Kotecki) is coming to call. It's a tender, well-written memory piece about a difficult subject, directed with care by Christopher Fessenden.

The tone shifts dramatically with Sins of the Father, a taut, powerful drama penned and directed by Barnao. This time family responsibility takes on a violent, corruptive edge in the story of half-brothers Frank (the excellent Jared Edwards) and Tommy (the also admirable David Greene), who have no means of relating to each other except through brutality and petty crime. It's a hard-hitting antithesis to Shimer's poignant tale that leaves no room for doubt about the long-term effects of abusive parenting upon powerless children. Eventually they grow up to grab power for themselves in whatever ways they can, whether by taking command over friends such as Johnny Bop (John Wynn) or effectively destroying each other in misguided efforts to protect and connect. Taking care of a sibling is difficult under the best of conditions; trying to do so with no skills and a hardened heart is a challenge that too many must, but no one should ever have to, endure.

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