Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Shorts: Series B *

The second installment of the Summer Shorts Festival of New American Short Plays at 59E59 Theater features works by Lucy Thurber (The Hill Town Plays), Robert O’Hara (Bootycandy) and Stella Fawn Ragsdale.

In Thurber’s Unstuck we meet Pete (Alfredo Narciso), a man too depressed to leave the house even on his birthday. In three scenes he interacts with his sister Jackie (Lauren Blumenfeld) who badgers him to critique her hilariously inept tap-dance routine, his narcissistic friend Sara (Carmen Zilles), who offers him a birthday cupcake and a song and, finally, his patient live-in girlfriend Deirdre (KK Moggie), who tries to snap him out of his depression. Unfortunately Pete’s lethargy was contagious and, for me, more than cancelled out the liveliness of the three women. Laura Savia directed.

O’Hara’s Built has an interesting premise. Mrs. Back (Merritt Janson), a disgraced former teacher has a rendezvous with Mason (Justin Bernegger), a studly 25-year-old with whom she had sex at school 10 years ago. Their encounter is more than a little kinky. The brief male nudity suggests why she found him so irresistible. Their perspectives on their earlier relationship differ. Unfortunately, the play ends with a twist that comes out of nowhere and makes very little sense. Bernegger certainly gives it his all. Who was it who said that there’s nothing wrong with being an exhibitionist as long as you put on a good show? The playwright directed.

Ragsdale’s Love Letters to a Dictator gets off to a bad start and never recovers. Stella (Colby Minifie, recently in Punk Rock), a farm woman with the same name as the playwright enters with a large laundry basket under her arm. Instead of setting the basket down and sitting, she balances on one foot struggling to take her boots off while still holding the basket. Nothing that follows makes much sense either. Stella has left her family behind in Tennessee to move to New York to be a writer. It is also mentioned that she left to avoid ostracism over the wrong kind of love. Unable to adjust to city life, she moves to a farm in the Hudson Valley. Out of the blue she begins corresponding with the North Korean dictator and seeks his advice over whether to return home. She hangs her correspondence from clothespins on a line that stretches across the stage. When Kim Jong-Il dies, she writes a final letter. That’s about it. Logan Vaughn directed.

While the actors in all three plays were commendable, the material did not rise very far above the level of exercises for a playwriting workshop. The sets and costumes were by the same people who designed Series A. Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission. It seemed longer.

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