Theater Review: Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 34th Marathon, Series C

An assortment of five new one-acts
June 21, 2013 Updated: June 21, 2013

NEW YORK—A mixed bag of five original one-acts greets the audience with Series C, the last offering of this year’s annual Marathon.

In “Existence,” veteran writer Murray Schisgal displays an egotistical East Side New York couple, Lulu and Izzy (Kristin Griffith and Richmond Hoxie). Izzy brags about his soon-to-be-experienced “killing” on Wall Street—set for the next morning. (Was it Macbeth who said, “That day will never come”?) Glamorous Lulu parades about in a slinky red gown, singing her slightly stout hubby’s praises as she downs his excellent martinis.

Clichés relating to various American customs come in for satirical treatment, thus the piece offers a meaningful punch as well as sheer comedic delight. Terrific performances and neatly directed by actor and director Peter Maloney.

Clare Barron’s “Solar Plexus” takes place at a 20-something party, where self-styled yoga and lifestyle expert Stacey (Abigail Gampel) introduces shy Mallery (Diana Ruppe) to some freeing exercises. Mallery’s date Joe (Bradley Anderson) holds back at first, but later indulges himself with enthusiasm. The payoff is a bit overdone given the setup. Actor Jonathan Huggins briefly enters the scene. Nelson Eusebio directs.

Christopher Sullivan’s “Carry the Zero” displays a teenage couple in a car driven by Marc (Alex Herrald), who is squiring Nicole (Megan Tusing) home from a party. At first each professes to be more sexually experienced than he or she actually is, but the truth comes out, and in the end the characters have a sense of honest relief.

Nicely directed by Robert Saenz de Viteri; however, he should advise his actors to vocally project more. Although the content is intimate, the actors are on a stage (and I was seated in the first row).

“Zero” by Tommy Smith is a tour-de-force, whether via the playwright’s instructions, director William Carden’s creativity, or actor Curran Connor’s skill—perhaps all of the above.

Thirty-something Architect (Curran Connor) is staying at a ritzy apartment building by virtue of a grant he received. Each of frequent encounters displays a new event in the Architect’s not very satisfactory life, with pithy comments often made by the Doorman (Shanga Parker) regarding the Architect’s sometimes dubious activities. (These encounters are achieved in whiz-bang style with rapid disappearances and reappearances.)

When the Architect, out of loneliness and a sense of feeling lost, tries to befriend the Doorman, the latter is all business at first. Later he melts somewhat out of sympathy. This is a terrific little production, with classy performances by both actors and first-rate direction by Mr. Carden.

The evening ends with another tour-de-force, by virtue of an outstanding performance by Brad Bellamy as Coach Broadhaus in Jon Kern’s “Hate the Loser.” He depicts a former top college football coach filming a local TV commercial under the direction of Wendell (the very patient Graeme Gillis).

Interspersed with the coach blowing hard about all his abilities and achievements is his never-ending failure to get his very simple lines right. His frustration with himself leads to his nearly destroying the prop table—just as he is about to get it right. Sheer hilarity comes from wonderful performances under R. J. Tolan’s direction.

The plays are nicely aided by scene design by Nick Francone, costumes by Rachel Dozier-Ezell, lighting by Greg MacPherson, and sound by Dan Spitaliere.

So goes the last series of the 34th Marathon of One-Act Plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre. In sum, a terrific season, still to be savored through June 29.

The 34th Marathon of One-Act Plays, Series C
Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street
Tickets: 866-811-4111 or visit ensemblestudiotheatre.org
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Closes: June 29

Diana Barth publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: www.diabarth@juno.com.

RECOMMENDED