The tepid program offered by Series A of this year’s Summer Shorts festival at 59E59 Theater is partially redeemed by the three plays in Series B.
“Black Flag” by Idris Goodwin presents two freshman roommates meeting for the first time after a summer of online contact. Sydney (Francesca Carpanini) is from Georgia and Deja (Suzette Azariah Gunn) is from Detroit. Things get off to a bad start when Sydney hangs a Confederate flag over her bed, heedless of how it might affect her black roommate. Sydney regards it as a symbol of Southern pride given to her by her mother to remind her of her roots. Deja is reluctant to make a fuss and tries not to be provoked. Her Japanese-American boyfriend Harry (Ruy Iskandar) is less forbearing. The play ends on an ambiguous but satisfying note. The situation is a bit contrived and the scene with the boyfriend seemed false, but I credit the playwright for taking on a timely topic and giving it a nuanced presentation. The actors were convincing and the direction by Logan Vaughn was unfussy.
“Queen” by Alexander Dinelaris (“On Your Feet” and “Birdman”) was inspired by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez story “The Woman Who Came at Six O’Clock.” Queen (Casandera M. I. Lollar) is a world-weary hooker who shows up every day at six at the restaurant owned by Joe (Saverio Tuzzolo), a bachelor who has loved her unrequitedly for years and treats to to drinks and supper every night. On this day, Queen is quite agitated when she arrives and asks Joe, who is famous for his honesty, to lie for her. When a detective Chris McFarland) arrives and asks about Queen, Joe is put to the test. I thought Ms. Lollar looked too young and pretty to be convincing as Queen. Director Victor Slezak let the play overheat at times.
The evening’s most theatrical and most ambitious work is “The Dark Clothes of Night” by Richard Alfredo, an affectionate send-up of film noir and those who love it too much. Much is demanded of its three fine actors, who excel in the 13 roles they play. Dana Watkins is both Rob, a film professor in a failing marriage, and Burke, a sleuth with an attraction to femmes fatales. Sinem Meltem Dogan is wonderful as his wife Sylvie; an annoying student Emily; a nurse; Delilah Twain, the rich beautiful widow who hires Burke, and Delia, her younger sister. James Rees is a delight as Rob’s academic colleague Barry, a detective, the sisters’ dotty father, a wacky couples therapist and an evil doctor. The dialogue is archly hilarious. The production is greatly enhanced by projections by Daniel Mueller that evoke the noir milieu. The play falters a bit in its final moments, but not enough to dampen one’s enjoyment of an extremely clever work. The multitalented Alesander Dinelaris directed.
For the other productions credits, please see my review of Series A.