By Tulis McCall
Now THIS is what I’m talkin’s about! Summer Shorts Series B at 59E59 is a total shot in the arm and is not to be missed. The three plays here are a perfect example of how much you can pack into a few minutes on a stage. That would be A LOT.
Black Flag, does indeed refer to a flag and a whole to of other elements as well. Two first year students are moving into their dorm room together. Sydney (Frances Carpanini) is a white Georgia Peach and Deja (Suzette Azariah Gunn) is from Detroit. They could not be more different on the outside, but have connected on the Internet before meeting, so familiarity is an element in this first meeting. Familiarity so clear that Sydney thinks nothing of tacking up the memento her mother packed so that Sydney does not forget her roots. The memento in question is a Confederate flag. Yup.
While the play’s premise itself strains credulity (this is an unnamed New York university), the playwright Idris Goodwin skips the formalities and jumps into the matter at hand. How will these two work this out? Deja refuses to be the “angry black woman” in the mix, and Sydney only sees her heritage. It will take months for the tussle to happen, but it will. And the outcome is left in question instead of being tied up in a bow. Logan Vaughn‘s direction wisely takes a similar route and skips over the uneven acting skills of her cast to focus us on the center of the tale.
Next up is Queen, and this queen is a down on her much gal (Casandera M.J. Dollar) who takes daily refuge at a small cafe overseen by Joe (Saver Tuzzolo). Whatever Queenie’s past, it is clear that her present is a sink-hole and she is going down for the count. She is a hooker, possibly a grifter, and smart enough to know where the next meal is coming from – even if it is once a day. In this predictable but delicate piece Ms. Dollar manages to pull us into the core of Queenie. She is in the gutter, and she knows that the monsters are only cockroaches, but when your perspective is flat as a pancake there is only so much you can do. Joe is in love with Queen and makes no effort to hide it. Never has. On this particular night, however, he lays his heart on his sleeve and hopes she will take it up.
The Dark Clothes Of Night is the most ambitious play of the evening, if for no there reason than this extraordinary cast, Sinem Meltem Dogan, James Rees and Dana Watkins, are asked to walk, talk, chew gum and, like Ginger Rogers, dance backwards in heels. This is the story of a – well jeese, let’s see… Rob Marlowe (Dana Watkins) A college professor who teaches a course in film noir sort of takes a trip to the other side of the projection booth and becomes (duh) Booth. Booth is straight out of Humphrey Bogart-ville and has lines that will make your head spin. What will also make your head spin is the 13 or so characters, played by Dogan and Rees, who fly on and off the stage without a hiccup. I cannot imagine what the hell is going on backstage to accommodate these actors. Hats off to them AND the crew. The story swings back and forth from reality to movie land, and in the middle of it all is Marlowe/Booth trying to hang onto the woman he loves, or who is there at the moment. Alexander Dinelaris (author of Queen) does double duty here as the director, and traffic controller, of this astonishing cast. The play itself holds up beautifully until roughly three-quarters of the way in when, like its main character, it loses sight of where it is going and collapses like a soufflé. The actors, however, never falter so more’s the credit to them.
All in all this is a fabulous night of theatre. A soupçon of everything that is splendid about theatre, and a celebration of the wonder that is our New York Stage, and in particular 59E59.
BLACK FLAG by Idris Goodwin, directed by Logan Vaughn; With Francesca Carpanini, Suzette Azariah Gunn, Ruy Iskandar
The design team includes Rebecca Lord-°©‐Surratt (set design); Greg MacPherson (lighting design); Amy Sutton (costume design); Nick Moore (sound design/composer); Isabella Carter (prop design); and Daniel Mueller (projection design). The Production Stage Manager for Series A is Jenna R. Lazar. The Production Stage Manager for Series B is Dee Dee Kitchen.
THE DARK CLOTHES OF NIGHT by Richard Alfredo, directed by Alexander Dinelaris; With Sinem Meltem Dogan, James Rees, Dana Watkins
59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer; Brian Beirne, Managing Director) is thrilled to welcome Throughline Artists (J.J. Kandel, Producing Director) with SUMMER SHORTS 2016, the annual festival of six short plays tailor-°©‐made for summer viewing, now celebrating its 10th season. SUMMER SHORTS 2016 begins on Friday, July 22 and runs through Saturday, September 3.
To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279‐4200 or visit www.59e59.org.