The Belfast Maskers have been producing shows since 1987.
The non-profit community theater company that two years ago bought the former Universalist Church at 17 Court St. wasn’t going to let an annoyance like the coronavirus pandemic keep it from performing in the summer of 2020.
Rather than produce a big musical as the group did last summer with “The Secret Garden,” the Maskers decided to go small and outside with five short one-act plays performed in front of Basil Burwell Community Theater.
The city allowed the company to block off Court Street behind the Crosby Center for seating. Because the theater, nicknamed “The Bazz” after the maskers’ founder, sits at about street level, the sightlines are perfect.
The sets are simple — a park bench, a couch and a coffee table, a desk and a chair — but the sentiment behind each play is the importance of human connection.
In “Benny and Boris,” Bruce Hertz and Bob Nichols portray two septuagenarians who meet once a week in a park to play cards. Their long and loving friendship is touching and believable. The actors are perfectly cast and their portrayals will cause even the toughest theatergoer to tear up.
Jared Nickerson and Emily LeBlanc-McConnell bring Stan and his steampunk fairy godmother vibrantly to life in “A Visit During COVID.” Their dialogue crackles over the boredom of isolation as Stan’s fairy godmother tries to convince him to get up off the couch and take charge of his miserable life. Nickerson and LeBlanc-McConnell give delightful performances.
“Short Term Affairs” and “Blind Date” are about the search for affection, no matter how long it may last. Robyn Tarrantino and Robert Porter hook up with the promise of no commitments while Erik Perkins and Katie Glessner meet for a blind date literally blindfolded. It could be the start of something big.
The callous tone of “The Role of Della” seems a little out of place compared to the other plays, but Erica Rubin-Irish, Monique Dechamps and Melora Norman expertly bring out all of its predictable irony.
The Maskers’ artistic director, Meg Nickerson, and long-time member Greg Marsanskis directed the shows and kept them, for the most part, light hearted. They worked well with the actors to make sure that they could be heard and understood outside.
One aspect of this production that helps tie the plays together is the music. Sound designer Jay Rosenberg’s choices span eras and genres. His contribution to the loving atmosphere outside “The Bazz” on a summer night cannot be overstated.
With this presentation, the Belfast Maskers have proven that COVID-19 cannot dampen, let alone destroy, the desire and the need to create. This evening of one-acts is a charming gift to the community from one of its oldest artistic organizations. It should be seen and embraced.
The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday outside the Basil Burwell Community Theater at 17 Court St. in Belfast. The Friday night show is sold out. Theatergoers are asked to wear masks unless seated. Forty tickets are available for each performance and must be purchased online at belfastmaskers.com.