The Festival of New American Short Plays is celebrating its 10th year with two series of three plays each at 59E59 Theater. The three plays in Series A, performed without intermission, last barely 80 minutes.
“The Helpers” by Cusi Cram, presents two characters, a retired psychiatrist (Maggie Burke) and a former patient (David Deblinger), who meet on a bench in Greenwich Village on a cold winter day to settle some unfinished business. It’s a brief character sketch that doesn’t go very deep. The acting is adequate as is the direction by Jessi D. Hill.
Neil LaBute is back again this year with “After the Wedding,” in which a husband and wife (Frank Harts and Elizabeth Masucci) who have been married 5 or 6 years, face the audience in separate pools of light and engage in two overlapping monologues that start by relating amusing bits about their marriage but end up telling about a tragic event that occurred at the start of their honeymoon which they have tried hard to avoid thinking about. Since this is LaBute, there is some sexual content. The actors are convincing and Maira Mileaf’s direction is smooth.
“This Is How It Ends” by A. Rey Pamatmat, by far the longest of the three plays, is an unwieldy absurdist look at the end of the world as seen by a gay man Jake (Chinaza Uche), Annie (Kerry Warren), the roommate he found on Craigslist who reveals that she is really the Antichrist and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — Death (Nadine Malouf), Famine (Rosa Gilmore), Pestilence (Sathya Sridharan) and War (Patrick Cummings). It turns out that the latter two are a downlow item. The plot is too disjointed to make much sense although director Ed Sylvanus Iskander (“The Mysteries” at The Flea) bravely tries.
The simple set by Rebecca Lord-Surratt features a back wall of louvred panels that swivel to reveal a smooth surface for projections on the reverse side. The costumes by Amy Sutton for the Four Horsemen are quite amusing.
All in all, it was not a very satisying program. Before the first play, there was an interesting stop-motion short film of the crew assembling the set. The start was delayed for ten minutes by an argument over a seat between a man in a wheelchair and a woman with a walker that forced the house manager to intervene and got a round of applause from the audience when calm was restored. Would that the plays had been equally involving.