Posted in Albert Innaurato, Daniel Reitz, Eric Lane, Henny Russel, Jack Hofsiss, JJ Kandel, Maria Mileaf, Neil La Bute, Roger Hedden, Throughline Artists, Victor Slezak, Warren Leight, Will Dagger

Putting on our "Summer Shorts" Series B

There are many iterations of the short story. Probably that look your mama gave you is the shortest. The tales Lydia Davis tells are almost haiku like. For most playwrights, the short form is aka the one-act. 


Traditionally, “Summer Shorts,” a Throughline Artists production in repertory at 59E59 Theaters through August 30th, have upped the ante on short by curtailing the action to a mere fifteen or 20 minutes. Developing a storyline from top to bottom in that time is a challenge. This year’s offerings are a bit longer, running into regular one-act territory.

Some of these succeed better than others.

Henny Russell and Will Dagger in
“Napoleon in Exile,” from Series B,
“Summer Shorts”.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

One that does so brilliantly is “The Mulberry Bush.” 

With every chatty line of dialog, Neil LaBute builds tension, so that you wonder where his story is going and how or if it will resolve. What seems casual is deliberate and taut.

The poignancy in Daniel Rietz’ “Napoleon in Exile” burns beneath genuine humor. Henny Russell and Will Dagger are natural and charming as mother and son.

Albert Innaurato disappoints with a ranting sketch comedy– of excessive length at 40 minutes–that aims to offend. Innaurato’s liner notes on the trajectory of his career are the best part of his contribution. The piece, entitled “Doubtless,” no doubt as a not so subtle pun on John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt,” gets a little help from Jack Hofsiss’ lively direction and a fearless cast.

Victor Slezak and JJ Kandel in Neil LaBute’s “The Mulberry Bush,” Part of “Summer Shorts Series B.”
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The acting in “Summer Shorts 2014, Series B” is universally excellent with stand-out performances by Victor Slezak and JJ Kandel in “The Mulberry Bush.”

For more information on “Summer Shorts 2014,” visit www.59e59.org or http://summershortsfestival.com/.


Posted in 6 extremely short plays, Alan Zweibel, Lucas Hnath, Marian Fontana, Michael Countryman, Neil La Bute, Paul Weitz, Tina Howe

Let Us (Mostly) Praise "Summer Shorts"

Alan Zweibel’s “Pine Cone Moment” part of Summer Shorts 2013, with Cmille Saviola as Bunny, Caroline Lagerfelt as Emma, Brian Reddy as Harry, and James Murtaugh as Brian, at 59E59 Theaters through August 31.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Like with tapas, you can fill up on three short plays and walk away fully satisfied. Of course, sometimes not every dish is perfectly delicious. Having one of out 3 morsels be good is not great, but 4 out of six is just fine.

“Summer Shorts,” at 59E59 Theaters throough Augsut 31, celebrates the short form with 2 sets of one act plays by some of America’s top playwrights. From past seasons of this seven year old festival, expectations may vary. Will they be diamonds in the rough or little jewels of invention?

Leaving the best for last, let’s get Series A out of the way first. It opens with Neil La Bute’s “Good Luck (in Farsi)” which is obvious and repetitious. This is the weak sister of the programsm about back-stabbing actresses, Paige (Elizabeth Masucci) and Kate (Gia Crovatin) vying for the same role. La Bute – who also directs this playlet–  hits a satirical mark or two in the overlong short play. To be fair, La Bute has had some very successful outings with the short form at past “Summer Shorts,” but really he should have quit while he was ahead. “Good Luck (in Farsi)” is too much like a sketch and too little like a fully-developed play in miniature.

In Marian Fonatana’s “Falling Short,” Kendra Mylnechuk is Lee, Shane Patrick Kearns is Eric and Others, and JJ Kandel is Nate. Photo  by Carol Rosegg

Sarah (Marisa Viola) is both the narrator and a participant in the annoying sound-bite “About A Woman Named Sarah,” by Lucas Hnath. The play is about Palin’s selection interview with John (Mark Elliot Wilson) and Cindy (Stephanie Cannon) McCain. In it  not even Todd (Ben Vigus) wants her to run.

The best of Series A is Tina Howe’s “Breaking the Spell.” A non-fariytale, tweaking the Sleeping Beauty story, with a touch of gibberish, a little tap, a lot of music, “Breaking the Spell” is a full-on vaudeville approach to the saga of the 100-year sleep. Michael Countryman is the king sitting vigil over his daughter, Cristabel (Crystal Finn) with Poor Wretched Fool (aka PWF, Evan Shinners, who also plays other parts and piano and accordian) mad over her and doing all he can to awaken the princess. Jesse Scheinin plays the sax that fails in its attempt at “Breaking the Spell.”

“Summer Shorts 2013 Series B” proves the adage that good things come in small packages.Series B features three of rhe most enjoyable short plays. These are  about love and desolation, and each hits a different rhythm, and all three stride forward towards a revelation.

“Change” doesn’t come easy to three college pals, Ted (Alex Manette), Jordan (Michael Dempsey), and Carla (Allison Daugherty), reuniting after 20 years. Paul Weitz’ sardonic look at the ways we grow up after graduation is bitterly funny.

“Falling Short” is tender and moving. Marian Fontana’s heroine, Lee (Kendra Mylnechuk) delivers some very funny bon-mots, including her pity analysis of the writer’s plight. “It’s like having a paper due everyday of your life.” Lee’s date with the over-the-top quirky Nate (JJ Kandel) whom she met on-line is charming. Well directed by Alexander Dinelaris, the playwright of Red Dog Howls, and other works.

Alan Zweibel’s “Pine Cone Moment” is a beautiful look at how to move on. The aging protagonists, Emma (Caroline Lagerfelt) and Harry (Brian Reddy) are both haunted and encouraged by their dead spouses, Bunny (Camille Saviola) and Brian (James Murtaugh).  As Bunny did in life so, with her red dress and plus-size personality Camille Saviola steals the show. Also outstanding as the boyishly wide-eyed Harry is Brian Reddy in an exceptionally fine cast.

The acting in all the pieces, good and bad, was very good. Besides the wonderful ensemble in “Pine Cone Moment,” the nice work in “Breaking the Spell,” and “Falling Short,”Alex Manette and Allison Daugherty in “Change” also made a great impression.

The best of “Summer Shorts” are one-acts with an arc. In Series B, as a case in point, this season, there was a generously fine array of succinct dramas with finely developed characters and fleshed out plots.

For more information about “Summer Shorts 2013,” please visit http://www.summershortsfestival.com/

Posted in 6 extremely short plays, absurdist, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012, Neil La Bute, politically inspired, serious, theatre with a lofty and worthy goal, tragi-comic, Victor Sloezak

Protesting on Stage in "Theatre Uncut"

250 groups in 17 countries have put on “Theatre Uncut” productions.

Moving, intelligent, tightly-written, politically-inspired and inspiring art is not commonly to be found.

In “Theatre Uncut,” in a Traverse Theatre Edinburgh production courtesy of The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation at the Clurman on Theatre Row through February 3rd, the emphasis is on art.

World-wide fiscal crises and budget cuts for social services are the impetus for “Theatre Uncut,” an international movement of stage professionals, dubbing themselves “Theatre Uncutters.”

“Theatre Uncut” are plays of protest.

The fantastic U.S. cast all volunteered their time, artistry and talent to perform the six short works on the program.

“In the Beginning” by Neil LaBute. Gia Crovatin and Victor Slezak  Photo by Allison Stock

As might be expected from Neil La Bute, his “In The Beginning” does not tow strictly to a line. He examines the Occupy Movement as it might play out in the living room of an occupier (Gia Crovatin and her well-heeled dad (Victor Slezak.) La Bute questions, and does not come up with any easy answers. “In The Beginning” is thought-provoking and not in the least polemical.

Not that any of the other excellent playlets are polemical.

In Clare Brennan’s “Spine,” Amy (Robyn Kerr) befriends a brilliantly dotty old lady whose library is appropriated from the stacks of all the closed libraries in the district.

“This situation,” says Jack (Brian Hastert) in “Fragile” by David Greig, “is all fucked up and it has to stop.” Greig addresses the financial issue in the prologue to his piece (read by Robyn Kerr.) For budgetary reasons, “Fragile,” under the direction of Catrin Evans, written for two characters– Jack and Caroline– is performed by only one. The audience will cue Jack by reading Caroline’s lines.

Tyler Moss in “The Birth of My Violence” by Marco Canale Photo by Allison Stock

“The Price” by Lena Kitsopoulou paints an absurdist tragi-comic picture from the Greek economic meltdown. A Man (Carter Gill) and his wife (Shannon Sullivan) argue over every drachma — now in Euros– of expenditure while shopping in a gulag-like supermarket.

The playbill suggests that one request the works for private reading but that would not be half as much fun as watching these superb actors.

Go see “Theatre Uncut” during its short stay. Enjoy the performances in these short offerings. Along with those actors already mentioned, there’s Tyler Moss as a disaffected writer in Spain in Marco Canale’s “The Birth of My Violence,” directed by Cressida Brown, as are both “The Price” and “Spine.” Lou (Ali Ewoldt) and Ama (Jessika Williams) are reluctant escapees in “The Breakout” by Anders Lustgarten, and directed by Emily Reutlinger, who also directed “In The Beginning.”

The run at the Clurman is a preamble for the “Theatre Uncut 2013 week of international action” scheduled for November. 250 groups in 17 countries have put on this show case of protest everywhere from stages to kitchens.

“The idea began in the U.K. in October 2010, as the Coalition government announced the worst cuts to public spending,” co-Artistic Directors Emma Callander and Hannah Price, say in the program notes,” since WW2. Fast forward to 2013. Austerity is a buzzword.”

To learn more about “Theatre Uncut” or to join the “Uncutters,” go to www.theatreuncut.com or email getinvolved@theatreuncut.com. Tickets are available at the Clurman box office at Theatre Row on 42nd Street.