The Reviews Are In

Epoch opened the 2016 Ithaca Fringe Festival Thursday night, and the reviews are off the charts!

EPOCH | 4 Short Plays

Written and directed by James Comfort II

Review by Tessa Duke


At this year’s Ithaca Fringe Festival, Ithaca’s own playwright/director/screenwriter/producer, James Comfort II, presents his epic Epoch: 4 Short Plays. Epoch offers an eloquent perspective on how a modern young adult might reflect on his or her own existence.

Playing off the definition of the word ‘epoch’, we are introduced to individuals who represent only slices of life as opposed to the whole picture. Collectively, the vignettes trigger a comforting realization, understanding that between the ages of 20-30, really and truly, not much of the world will make any sense.

The show opens with “The Girl Who Died in the Fire”, a dark take on the typical ‘blast from the past moment’ when two strangers who once attended high school together are reintroduced in a bar years later. The tension between the two characters is palpable, mixed with an undiagnosed and yet powerful chemistry. Claire, played by Adrienne Huffman, at one point remarks: “You know that gap between the person you wanna be, and the person you are?”, emphasizing a sense of failure that the two characters share, suggesting that we are all flawed beings just looking for a sense of companionship.

Next we have “Everclear,” a short play with a shockingly realistic look at how most detrimental arguments begin: a minute when everything is light and happy and somehow, inexorably, turns for the worst during a couple’s afternoon in Paris. Comfort’s sparse, natural writing is paired with excellent performances by both AJ Sage and Karlem Sivira.

The last two shorts include “An Ordinary Girl”, which features a realistic depiction of an addiction and the struggle to move forward. The fantastic performances paired with the darkness of the situation make for an interesting look at eating disorders. The final show, a humorous short, “Dirty Love,” features two characters who bare their souls, and it is refreshing as hell; hearing two people talk about that specific moment when you make eye contact with a total stranger and wonder if he or she will be your soul mate ten years from now, or otherwise the utter confusion of hooking up with a stranger you can only communicate with via text, makes for genuine, universal sympathy. The two performers, Saramoira Shields and Ian Remmers, perfectly portray two lost would-be lovers in a brutally honest romantic comedy, allowing the audiences to laugh and appreciate a coming-of-age perspective on love.


EPOCH | 4 Short Plays

Written and directed by James Comfort II

Review by Harley Manning

The End of Love, and the Beginning, and . . .

This energetic set of four short plays, each with a cast of two or three, by local filmmaker James Comfort II was met by a big, enthusiastic audience on its opening night.

Comfort is a graduate and now teaching assistant at the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca (AWI), from which he drew many of his eight cast members (A.J. Sage appeared in two plays). The actors’ training was obvious; they were all fully committed to their characters.

The opening piece, “The Girl Who Died in the Fire,” is more of a scene study than a play, a most interesting flirtation between two very damaged characters. I found the Hollywood ending to be somewhat hollow and vaguely disappointing (to me as audience member, not to the characters, but it will probably appeal to many viewers. The actors, Adrienne Huffman and Scott Rougeau, are well cast, with believable chemistry.

The second piece, “Everclear,” is the one I found most satisfying and layered. A. J. Sage and Karlem Sivira play a young Indiana couple on the last evening of their vacation in Paris, for which they’ve spent two-and-a-half years saving up from their salaries at boring, dead-end jobs. The piece starts out as they return exuberantly from a shopping spree, during which Everclear, the woman, has spent a small fortune on scarves for herself along the Champs Elysée. The evening takes a decided turn. A. J. Sage is especially strong in this piece, and on opening night, Sivira rose to match him by the denouement.

“An Ordinary Girl” features Ali Diemecke and Alisar Awwad, and A. J. Sage, and touches on themes of domination, intimidation, body image, and “cultural” pressures.

“Dirty Love” features two likeable actors, Ian Remmers (Man) and Saramoira Shields (Woman), in alternating monologues about their characters’ desires for passionate, angry, healing, powerful, all-consuming, lasting love and their failed attempts to find it. While it’s not groundbreaking theatrically, it showcases two talented actors in a story that left the audience feeling upbeat, engaged, and very satisfied.