Posted in comedy, dance, fairytale, festival of short plays, fox, known playwrights, monologues, politically incorrect, racism, stand up, stepfather, teens, vignettes

Squeeze out a little more of the season with "Summer Shorts 5" but we’re done with Mark Morris for now

What brings an award-winning seventeen year old playwright (Ruby Rae Spiegel), a famously controversial one (Neil LaBute), a long-established and much respected theater writer (Christopher Durang) and an up-and-coming voice of off-Broadway (Alexander Dinelaris) to the same stage?

It’s “Summer Shorts,” a festival of plays defined by their brevity, now in its fifth year at 59E59 Theaters through September 3rd! The challenge of “Summer Shorts” is to create a complete play within a time constraint of approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Each “short” is expected to have a full arc, but they need not be strictly speaking, and most of the selection presented by the authors above in the Series A repertory is not, one-act offerings. Some are comprised of several scenes, that shift in location, and introduce their characters. Some are monologues.

Since it is not easy to present a beginning, middle and end in such a short form, some of the plays succeed better than others.

Lydia Weintraub (left) and Louise Sullivan in Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine.” 

Each bill offers four little vignettes, and in “Summer Shorts 5– Series A” , the offerings included:

Neil LaBute’s “The New Testament” proves to be not just a very funny, well-paced work, it also tells its story cogently, under the direction of Dolores Rice, tantalizing out the details of its brilliantly simple plot. Jeff Binder, with foils in Mando Alvarado and James Chen, is particularly adept in this little tale of racism and self-righteousness.

“In This, Our Time…,” Alexander Dinelaris paints vivid portraits of a troubled modern
family. JJ Kandel directs the dynamic cast in a minimalist dramatic work that mystifies with an unsatisfactory ending.

Erin Darke and Ted Koch in a scene from In This, Our Time… by Alexander Dinelaris, directed By J.J. Kandel, part of SUMMER SHORTS 5 Series A.ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF NEW AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS Photo Credit: Rahav Segev 

“Triple Trouble with Love” is Christopher Durang’s entertaining stand up comedy of a play about the perils of relationship. It features Nick Choksi, Beth Hoyt, and Aidan Sullivan in a triptych to dysfunction.

Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Carrie & Francine,” despite a complete plot line, manages to feel fragmental and, well, incomplete.
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No Mozart this time around from Mark Morris Dance Group at “Mostly Mozart Festival”

There was no Mozart in the Mostly Mozart Festival presentation by Mark Morris Dance Group at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre in the Time Warner Center from August 18th through 20th. The much-touted New York premiere of “Renard,” set to a score by Igor Stravinsky that was played by the skillful MMDG Musical Ensemble under the baton of Stefan Asbury, fell under the Sravinsky Too rubric, however.

(See a video of typical Morris dancing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeFyYFxTqtQ)

Also on the program was last year’s sensation– “Socrates,” a piece choreographed to music by Erik Satie– which is certainly dynamic, but the dance to celebrate on this program is “Festival Dances,” set to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Piano Trio in E Major, Opus 83. “Festival Dances” is a beautiful and gentle work in the spirit of Agnes DeMille with plenty of balletic influence.

Both “Renard,” which is a comedic piece, and “Socrates” make fine use of vocal accompaniments. Renard is adorable, acrobatic, and reminiscent of silent films. The costumes by Maira Kalman with labels naming each of the characters beginning on the front of their shirts and ending on the back and little headpieces of crowns or ears are imaginative and simple. The Cock’s Chics are dressed like 1960’s cheerleaders in crinolined skirts so when Cock breaks out into a little endzone dance it just feels right. The stylized violence also seems appropriate for the story.

Visit markmorrisdancegroup.org to find a schedule for future MMDG performances.

To find a schedule for Summer Shorts5, go to 59E59.org

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Posted in athletes, comedy, family, love story, parenting, parents and children, politics, rock and roll, siblings, teens, young love

A Tall Order: Anna Kerrigans "The Talls"

Anna Kerrigan’s fine new play, “The Talls” would probably benefit from a more seductive title. Family in dysfunction can have so many iterations, but this one is fresh and beguiling.

Set in a small California town in the 1970’s, “The Talls” at 2econd Stage Theatre Uptown, through August 27th, focuses on the rudderless Clarke children.

Everything in “The Talls” encapsulates the 1970s. The actors are perfectly dressed by Jenny Mannis and the Clarke living room, in a set by Dane Laffrey, is evocative of “The Brady Bunch.”

Big sister, Isabelle (Shannon Esper) feels responsible for keeping her siblings on track. She makes sure they get their homework done, keeps Christian (Michael Oberholtzer) from picking on Catherine (Lauren Holmes) and makes sure that their youngest brother, Nicholas (Timothee Chalamet) gets ready for bed.

Gerard Canonico as Russell James with Shannon
Esper as Isabelle [Photo (c) Joan Marcus] 

The parents, John (Peter Rini) and Anne Clarke (Christa Scott-Reed) are pre-occupied– mostly with dad’s career and aspirations in politics, but also with Anne’s friendship with Sister Connie, one of the children’s teachers.

Christa Scott-Reed as Mrs. Anne Clarke and Peter Rini
as Mr. John Clarke [Photo (c) Joan Marcus] 

Anne, who has forgotten about Christian’s and Catherine’s ball games in the early afternoon, comes home to remind them, over an early cocktail, to get ready to meet their father’s political advisor, Russell James (Gerard Canonico).

Isabelle is not just the oldest in the family, she is also the smartest, and in some ways, despite her youth, the wisest. She is, also, the most daring. Isabelle longs for freedom from the straight and narrow. Her dreams of being a hippie are partly fulfilled as the comedy reaches a poignant outcome.

To find out more about Anna Kerrigan’s “The Talls,” please visit http://2st.com/