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/