As a literary festival, Central Piedmont Community College's ArtsFest was cohesive and sensible, but when it expanded into its current Sensoria form a couple of years ago, it had a thrown-together aspect - not unlike the late, unlamented Charlotte Shout or the newborn Ulysses Festival. But there are encouraging signs of coalescence. While you won't find a festival program booklet, such as the one UNC Charlotte produced for its current Violins of Hope celebration right out the chute (their first inner-city festival ever), CPCC did put up a website exclusively devoted to Sensoria. And they've mobilized both of their main performance venues for Sensoria 2012, Halton Theater and Pease Auditorium. With the Overcash Rehearsal Hall coming into play on April 26 with a brief run of All in the Timing, five days after this year's festival concludes, Sensoria 2013 could be even more theatre-rich.
Meanwhile, Play It Again, Sam at panoramic Pease remains a vibrant piece of Sensoria 2012, with Charlotte fave Hank West channeling Woody Allen in the lead role. Allen's distinctive writing for himself no doubt has a neurotic aroma that's difficult to resist, and most theatergoers will be quite happy that West surrenders totally to the Woody cadence in his portrayal of Allan Felix. Decked out in the classic trench coat as he counsels the lovable bumbler reeling from divorce, Scott C. Reynolds is Bogey. You can go over-the-top imitating Bogart, as stand-up impressionists usually do, or you try for a more lifelike Bogey lite. Reynolds takes the latter route, oozing film noire self-assurance, and it works nicely.
The married couple that attempts to help Felix, Dick and Linda Christie, has no observable chemistry as played by Oyebola Ande and Karina Roberts-Caparino. But that's okay, since Felix will have a semi-affair with Linda because of the breach between the two. Ande is serviceable as the preoccupied careerist husband, but Roberts-Caparino is giving her best-ever performance as Linda, warming up and texturizing the evening every time she and Felix are alone.
Directing the comedy, Charles LaBorde judges all the characters shrewdly, never attempting more depth than the script offers. The ex-wife, Nancy, could merely be normal to reach the end of her rope with Allen, but she appears here like Bogey as an apparition, so Joanna Llambias plays her as the alluring hellcat of his dreams, assisted by Jamey Varnadore's bold costuming. More normal - but incompatible - are the women that Felix meets on the rebound, tossed his way by the Christies, all precisely gauged by Marcie Levine Jacobs.
CPCC Opera Theatre opened Sensoria with a large-scale, small-budget production at Halton Theater, Made in the USA. The tribute to Gershwin and Bernstein offered a reduction of Porgy and Bess and excerpts from three of Bernstein's dramatic works, West Side Story, Trouble in Tahiti, and Candide. Unfortunately, quality was as varied as the programming. The 52-piece CP Opera Orchestra and the CP Chorus were dependable enough, but the broad median level of solo vocalists and dancers is best described as works-in-progress. At the high end of the wide spectrum were Rebecca Cook-Carter's "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy and Bess, Stephanie Levi's "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide, and every powerful bass note that Jeffrey Braaten sang as Sam from Trouble in Tahiti.