NEW YORK—The six short plays comprising Series B of the 34th year of EST’s Marathon offer a range of themes and an emotional palette going from light to dark and much in-between.
The two plays following intermission are both the longest and meatiest. In Sharr White’s “A Sunrise in Times Square,” Madeline (Julie Fitzpatrick), a newcomer to New York, invites into her newly rented apartment a fire marshal, Marky (Joseph Lyle Taylor), who had been instructing tenants on self-protection in case of fire. Madeline is shy and tentative, at least in the beginning, and Marky is properly distant.
Things heat up amazingly, although Madeline (almost) retains her dignity. Somehow the pacing and build of the piece made me think of a fire, which may start small, but build to great intensity. It is a fascinating and moving play with lovely performances by both actors. Mr. Taylor exhibits a particularly engaging humanity. Director is Claudia Weill.
In Robert Askins’s “Love Song of an Albanian Sous Chef,” the title character Eddie (Andy Nogasky) endeavors to tastefully please female bartender Billy (the overdone, but may I say, delicious Danielle Slavick), as tonight is to be her last night on the job. Served by waiter Nico (Brian Luna), one unique dish follows another.
Such have never before been seen by Billy—nor by anyone else for that matter—nor has she ever experienced such unique taste treats. Furthermore, these gastronomic marvels can even talk and move (courtesy of hidden puppeteer Mike Smith Rivera)! The doings build to a crescendo, and Eddie learns an important lesson about life and women. Director is Moritz Von Stuelpnagel.
The four earlier plays are briefer. In “Daddy Took My Debt Away” by Bekah Brunstetter, three phone clerks working for credit agencies field excuses, some more intense than others, from debtors who are having trouble paying their sizable bills. The three reps are nicely played by Emma Galvin, David Gelles, and Jonathan Randell Silver, under Jamie Richards’s direction.
In Leslie Ayvazian’s “The Favor,” Ralph (Grant Shaud) is asked by his wife, Ellen (Janet Zarish), to kiss her dying mother on the lips. Ralph skillfully protests and evades the issue until finally a step is taken. Somehow the stakes don’t seem high enough to warrant a full, though brief, play. Perhaps some other element could be introduced.
In Cori Thomas’s simply but effectively staged two-hander “Waking Up,” an American woman (Any Staats) and an African woman (Lynnette R. Freeman) sit side by side, though actually thousands of miles apart, as they each discuss their frightened reactions to having discovered a lump in their breasts.
The cultural plight of the African woman is particularly distressing, with Ms. Freeman beautifully meeting the needs of the script. A very engrossing and moving piece, directed by Tea Alagic.
Ryan Dowler’s “Something Like Loneliness” shows Dan (Chris Wight) calling on his nearby neighbor Mia (Jane Pfitsch). Dan apparently wants to share various seemingly intangible items with Mia, although the subtext indicates a more meaningful need. Director is Colette Robert.
Kudos goes to the energetic young people who change the sets silently and swiftly, never letting audience attention lag between plays. Production people include scenic designer Nick Francone, costume designer Rachel Dozier-Ezell, and lighting designer Greg MacPherson, all of whom make the proceedings run smoothly and attractively.
The 34th Marathon of One-Act Plays
The Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Tickets: 866-811-4111 or visit ensemblestudiotheatre.org
Closes: June 16
Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: www.diabarth.com.