Theater Review: Summer Shorts 2: Festival of New American Short Plays (Series A)

August 22, 2008 Updated: August 22, 2008

A quartet of slices of life

The lovely Amy Irving as  Arriana, a nightclub chanteuse in The Waters of March.  (Carol Rosegg)
The lovely Amy Irving as Arriana, a nightclub chanteuse in The Waters of March. (Carol Rosegg)
 

For the second year, “Summer Shorts” is presenting new American one-acts, an entertaining evening in the theater. (For those familiar with Ensemble Studio Theatre’s annual Marathon, this presentation is similar. In fact, Billy Hopkins, who has directed two of these four plays, has figured prominently in the EST offerings.)

First in the line-up, and to my mind, the most meaningful and evocative of the group, is Leslie Lyles’ “The Waters of March,” a one-person show starring lovely Amy Irving as Arriana, a nightclub chanteuse. A spotlight comes up as she sings a few phrases of a   Portuguese number. Arriana travels a lot, and is presently in Brazil.

Dressed in a glamorous black sequined gown (costumes for the entire program by Michael Bevins and Megan Sanders), and commenting on her windowless apartment, Arriana gently tells the audience of her various trials and tribulations, over many years, leading up to her latest experience. It is not pretty. She had earlier arrived at the club to  be informed that she’d been replaced—by a younger woman. (Arriana is very attractive, but still, the years.…). This is bad enough, but she’d invited several guests that evening, and what was she to say to them? Stay for the show, this new person is very good?

The denouement is painfully startling. Ms. Irving presents an elegant picture, and acts, and sings snippets here and there, with warmth and depth. She is a major player. Billy Hopkins has sensitively directed. Paul Megna plays backup guitar.

Incidentally, a bookcase-like setup against the wall cleverly contains set pieces for all four plays. Maruti Evans is both set and lighting designer.

(R-L) Jacinto (Mando Alvarado) coaching his son, Manuel (Gio Perez), in how to pitch a baseball in the short play Crossing The Border. (Carol Rosegg)
(R-L) Jacinto (Mando Alvarado) coaching his son, Manuel (Gio Perez), in how to pitch a baseball in the short play Crossing The Border. (Carol Rosegg)

The second play, Eduardo Machado’s “Crossing the Border,” shows Jacinto (Mando Alvarado) coaching his son, Manuel (Gio Perez), in how to pitch a baseball. There is an intensity here; Jacinto wants more than anything for Manuel to became a brilliant ball player. That’s the only way the boy can make it out of near-poverty here in Mexico and get to the States, where he can earn decent money and make something of himself. Under Randal Myler’s direction, the play builds to a strong climax.

Neil Koenigsberg’s “On a Bench” shows teenager Robert (David Beck) in a New York park, sitting opposite the site of the notorious 1969 Stonewall riots. He is joined by a complete stranger, Anne (Mary Joy), an older woman, who engages him in conversation, which later touches on the riots. In fact, her memories attain an intimacy and knowledge that may trigger life-changing attitudes in Robert. Mary Joy’s performance is a marvel of characterization; she seems to be Anne. David Beck holds his own nicely. Good direction is by Merri Milwe.

In Roger Hedden’s “Deep in the Hole,” two teen or young twenty-something couples deal with the complexities of their lives: mostly who is dating whom, sex—a game of spin-the-bottle produces a long-lasting kiss. There’s a discussion on drugs, as a brief sequence has them terrified that white powder issuing from an envelope may be anthrax. False alarm, fortunately. Directed by Billy Hopkins, this light, somewhat insubstantial piece features J.J. Kandel, Kendra Mylnechuk, David Ross, and Emily Tremaine.

Summer Shorts 2
59 East 59 Theaters
59 East 59 Street
Tickets:  (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Closes: August 26
(Series A alternates with Series B, which plays through August 28.)

Diana Barth writes and publishes “New Millennium,” an arts newsletter. For information: diabarth@juno.com

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