By Tulis McCall
Well, this season of SUMMER SHORTS is off to a melancholy start. Series A features three plays: The Helpers by Cusi Cram, After The Wedding by Neil Labute and This Is How It Ends by A. Rey Pamatmat. Neither the authors or the directors are new to this rodeo, but the curated material being presented here would not have you believe it.
Let’s start with the good news. Neil LaBute’s After The Wedding is seductive and disturbing bit of sleight of hand. A married couple who have been together for a few years are separated into two pools of light that resemble tiny interrogation rooms. Indeed, their stories overlap with unexpected differing nuances. He tells us she is beautiful, and she tells us he has a big heart. Oops. But they are happy. They are so happy. No question about that. Happy indeed. And the night when the thing happened, the night that caused them to take or not take an action, that night – well, that night cannot define them as couple can it. It cannot, indeed. That is because they will not let it. And things have been pretty good so far. Right? That’s right isn’t it? This production sneaks up on you. Writing, direction by Maria Mileaf and the performances of Frank Harts and Elizabeth Masucci are all of a perfect little piece. This is not the LaBute of screaming and gatling gun dialogue. This is the quiet LaBute, but do not mistake the gentle approach for anything that resembles safety. His pen is still lethal and his aim true.
The other two plays do not fare nearly as well. The Helpers, by Cusi Cram, is the story of a therapist and former client reuniting. Jane (Maggie Burke) and Nate (David Dubliner) are meeting after several months’ separation. Nate stopped his sessions abruptly after 15 years of working with Jane. He is here to apologize, but we don’t find that out until the play is nearly over. The lead up to the apology wanders all over the farm before it is lassoed and tied. Burke and Dubliner do everything they can to keep the story afloat, but it is not enough to keep our interest. These are two lonely people, and we want to care. But we never get a chance.
This Is How It Ends by A. Rey Pamatmat is the story of the end of the universe. The Anti-Christ (Kerry Warren) is drumming the whole business up out of what appears to be boredom. Her underlings Death (Nadine Malouf) War (Patrick Cummings), Famine (Rosa Gilmore) and Pestilence (Sathya Sridharan) and her friend Jake (Chinas Ache) are more or less along for the ride. Mr. Pamatmat’s writing rises to the level of an original high school play, and these actors carry out their duties as well as they can. Mr. Iskander’s direction is no help, and in the end we bystanders are praying for a swift and certain termination.
SUMMER SHORTS arrives at 59E59 for its 10th season! Divided into two series, SUMMER SHORTS premieres six one‐act plays, presented as two separate evenings of three each. The two series run in rotating repertory.
SUMMER SHORTS 2016 – 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 HELPERS by Cusi Cram, directed by Jessi D. Hill With Maggie Burke and David Deblinger
AFTER THE WEDDING by Neil LaBute, directed by Maria Mileaf With Frank Harts and Elizabeth Masucci
THIS IS HOW IT ENDS by A. Rey Pamatmat, directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar With Patrick Cummings, Rosa Gilmore , Nadine Malouf, Sathya Sridharan, Chinaza Uche and Kerry Warren
New York, New York July 13, 2016—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. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). A Pair of Shorts (a ticket to both Series A & B) is $40 (available until August 17). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-°©‐4200 or visit www.59e59.org.