Published in KPBS On Air Magazine March 1995

“Oh Feel Ya”. Title of a new play. Makes you think of titillation and Hamlet (not necessarily at the same time).   But neither the writer, the director nor the star will reveal anything about the piece. All they’ll say is “It’s about love, sex and death in a hotel room.” Well, okay, the actor did tell me the whole story in vivid detail, but it was all off the record and “just between him and me.” And I’m not telling. (This is serious journalism).

Anyway, the writer, director and actor are all the same person: Matthew Reidy, a guy who, only three years ago, might’ve been your loan processor at Home Fed.   He got his show business break as projectionist and night manager at an X-rated movie theater.   From there, he became house manager at the La Jolla Playhouse. He wrote radio commercials for Las Vegas casinos, and studied acting at the Old Globe.   He appeared in productions at Onstage, Sweetooth, Sledgehammer, the Fritz and others. Then he wrote his first play, “Gordon’s Confession”, which was the hit of last year’s San Diego Actors Festival. This year, he’s going for broke: writing, directing and starring in two pieces at the fifth annual Actors Festival (February 22 through March 12 at St. Cecilia’s, 1620 Sixth Avenue).

First there is the enigmatic “Oh Feel Ya”, a “comedy/tragedy where everything is kind of a surprise as it’s revealed.”   (You’ll have to settle for that for now). Then there’s “Talk Show 1996”, which is “mostly a comedy, with a little bit of drama, about a Donahue-type talk-show host with a loose screw.   At the end, you think something terrible’s gonna happen and it doesn’t, but something else terrible happens.”

That should whet your appetite enough to get up and go to the Actors Festival. Reidy’s is only one of 28 quirky voices to be heard at this year’s Festival.   Some, like the funny, talented, off-beat/nice-guy Reidy, are less known than others (like the humorous, long-dead Chekhov and Shakespeare, or the more-recent eccentrics Harold Pinter or Romulus Linney).

According to Barry Mann, second-time artistic director of the festival, last year’s event was the most successful yet, and this year’s will be even bigger and longer (three weeks instead of two).   To expand community outreach efforts, free tickets are being offered to service groups and shelters for the homeless, troubled youth and battered women.

It’s, as they say, a win-win situation.   Actors get to strut their stuff, free from the constraints of autocratic directors and dialogue written in stone. Audiences get to see new material: three pieces per evening, nine different programs. And people who never get to theater can do so cheaply or for free.   The range of offerings is broad, and there’s undoubtedly something for every taste. So check it out, and we can share the secrets of “Oh Feel Ya” — after you see it.   

©1995 Patté Productions Inc.