Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer Shorts: Series A ***

59E59 Theater is once again hosting the Summer Shorts Festival of New American Short Plays. Series A features works by Neil LaBute (most recently The Way We Get By), Vickie Ramirez and Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man). 

LaBute’s 10K  presents two joggers, a woman (Clea Alsip) and a man (J.J. Kandel), who are certainly among the fittest actors on a New York stage. Although they are jogging for almost the entire play, their bodies and their voices show no signs of fatigue. They meet on their daily run in a nature reserve and carry on a conversation that gradually grows more personal and leads them to reveal their fantasies. It’s a minor work that is superbly realized. The playwright directed.

Glenburn 12 WP by Ramirez is the evening’s weak point. Troy (Tre Davis), a young black man who has been at an anti-racism protest at Grand Central Terminal, enters a nearby Irish pub to have a beer. The bartender is unaccountably absent. He is soon joined by Roberta (Tanis Parenteau), a woman in her 30s who is a regular at the bar and who turns out to be part Native American. She tries to persuade him to have a drink, but he is reluctant to without the bartender there. She provokes him into a conversation and offers to pay for his drinks. When she goes down to the cellar allegedly to see if the bartender is there, she returns with a bottle of the very expensive Scotch for which the play is named. After a couple of drinks, she reveals a dark secret, which seemed completely implausible. The actors did their best with poorly written characters. Mel Haney directed.

The Sentinels by Lopez introduces us to three 9/11 widows whose husbands worked for the same firm and who meet at a coffee shop near ground zero every year. Alice’s (Meg Gibson) husband was the company’s founder. The acerbic Christa (Kellie Overbey) was married to an important executive there. Kelly’s (Michelle Beck) husband was a recent hire. Zuzanna Szadkowski is the waitress. The gimmick is that the story is told backwards starting in 2011 and proceeding in short scenes back to 2000. The concept is better than the execution. The short scenes don’t really build in intensity. The cast was good. The flatness seemed more in the writing than in Stephen Brackett’s direction.

Rebecca Lord-Surratt’s set design transformed nicely between locations. Dede Ayite’s costumes were apt. The evening was pleasant but not memorable. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes, no intermission.

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