• By Lonnie the Theater Lady

Kate Gordon (Jaime Slavinsky), a university ethics professor, opens the play by addressing the audience as though they are students in her class. She demands one thing of her students–that they tell her only the absolute truth. She asks the provocative question, “Is your highest ethical responsibility to yourself or to other people?”

(Nietzsche versus Confucius) This thought-provoking theme weaves itself throughout the play.

Ben (Joseph Martinez) is Kate’s underemployed husband who is currently working at Best Buy after losing his former engineering job.. The couple have devised a silly game that they call “Secret Hour,” in which they reveal somewhat silly secrets about themselves. The purpose is to pledge their undying love for each other, even after they’ve shared embarrassing secrets, and feel somewhat shamed by them. Examples: Ben reveals that he didn’t know that  wreath was pronounced differently than reef. This exercise is a way of connecting to each other.

An automobile accident exposes some big secrets that lie between them. The exposure of these secrets has a great impact on them and upsets the previous tranquility of their marriage. The changing dynamic between them reveals more and more about their formerly unspoken deepest thoughts and desires.

From left to right: Jordan Moore, Jaime Slavinsky, Joseph Martinez, Photo credit: Pittsburgh Performance Photography

Slavinsky has a powerful stage presence. Her Kate, among other things, is an engaging, inspirational lecturer. She effectively shows a wide variety emotions through her body language and facial expressions. She runs the gamut of emotions— vulnerable, defiant, angry, regretful, loving, humorous, and hopeful, Her portrayal is genuine throughout. She delivers  incredibly real monologues —her face flushes pink and her eyes well up with tears in one of them. There is stunning depth and nuance in her performance.
Martinez and Slavinsky share an intimate moment on the sofa.
Martinez portrays a lovable Ben. His quiet strength and wry humor later devolve into anger, confusion and despair– all done with complete authenticity. The love he feels for Kate is palpable. Martinez makes Ben a sympathetic character that the audience cares about deeply. He demonstrates a skillful shading of Ben’s subtleties. Well done.
Slavinsky at the white board.
  • Leaf (Jordan Moore) provides comic relief. He’s the handyman who came and is still there four months later. (Think of Eldin, the painter, on the television show “Murphy Brown”). Leaf is an eccentric, enigmatic man who oddly lives in a tree house. We learn that he, too, has some secrets of his own. His comedic timing and frequent jokes are delivered so well that he  could give some stand up comedians a run for their money. Jordan’s portrayal of Leaf, the life coach is sweet and funny.
  • This deeply thought provoking script (Jenny Stafford, playwright) is layered with intricacy and filled with smart, witty, insightful dialogue. Chris Clavelli, award winning director, is a resident instructor at Ensemble Actors Studio. Kudos to him for this wonderfully directed show that uses each of the actors to their fullest.
  • The lovely Javo Studios in Lawrenceville is a good choice of venue– intimate, yet spacious. The beautifully designed set (Jaime Slavinsky) gives the audience the illusion that they are inside Kate and Ben’s living space.
  • This top rate show is not to be missed. It’s thought provoking on a deeply philosophical level as it addresses ethics, truth, authenticity and our relationships with ourselves and others. It is, entertaining, quirky, engaging and extremely funny at times.
  • A truly auspicious start to the Ensemble Actors Theater. They deserve  congratulations on this, their debut production!
Ensemble Actors Theater’s “The Secret Hour,” runs through June 8 at Javo Studios, 5137 Holmes Street, Lawrenceville. For more information, click here.