By Massimo Iacoboni
There are sound ideas behind some of the 7 mini-plays in The Spring Fling: Rebound, the short-play series that opened on May 11 at the IRT Theater on Christopher Street. Now in its seventh year and produced by F*IT CLUB, The Spring Fling sets a different theme each year and then invites emerging playwrights to address that particular theme with a brand new work.
The themes chosen tend to revolve around matters of the heart: First Love, Crush, Anniversary and even My Best/Worst Date Ever, a title that reads like a junior high assignment and points perhaps to a certain, if charming, naiveté. How spurned lovers rebound from ill-fated affairs was the theme this year, one handled deftly by some of the writers involved and used as a loose pretext, or downright ignored, by some others.
It was hard to see any connection to the evening’s theme in the cryptic Robert and Lucy by Ngozi Anyanwu, a dream-like but psychologically uneventful encounter between two hastily sketched out characters. They meet at night at a crossroads: Lucy (Vasthy Mompoint) is playing the guitar, claims to be waiting for someone or something but doesn’t know for whom or what, and then turns out to be a devil, or may be a God, we’re not sure. Robert (Jimmy JJ Jeter), who claims instead not to be able to sing or play the guitar, begins to do just that, rather flawlessly, as soon as Lucy kisses him. The end. The matter-of-fact delivery and staging did not help in elevating the material, which might have benefited from more imaginative performances and a less realistic mise en scene.
Whatever sense of enchantment Robert and Lucy lacked was to be found, paradoxically, in the rather down-to-earth “Alone in Our Sex” by Matthew Paul Olmos, a post-coital exchange between two new lovers. With dialogue that stops just short of being sadomasochistic, the nameless Man (Jose Joaquin Perez) and Woman (Megan Branch) draw the audience into a disquieting web of intimacy, desire and manipulation. The staging makes effective use of the past lovers of each character, who float in and out of the scene, hers unseen by Man and his by Woman. Olmos coaxes us into a sobering awareness that sexual memories remain forever imbedded in our psyches, making it all but impossible, during sex, to ever be completely alone with our current partner.
Antares Returning, by Ryan King, is the both improbable and clichéd tale of two lovers on a spaceship returning to earth. They have been on a space mission for three years, during which time an agreement was made: Rhett (Michael Braun) needs to take care of Kendra’s (Erin Wilhelmi) sexual needs, no strings attached. He eventually falls in love, she belittles him, tensions ensue and the unavoidable, disembodied voice of an all-seeing computer blares on.
Rodman, by Leah Nanako Winkler, explores the tense relationship, mitigated by a common love for basketball, of sixteen year old girl Lenny (Emma Kivu) and Glen (Jay Patterson), her childish father. ‘You yell and chased me around in your car” Lenny cries. “That’s cuz you stole money out of my jar” is Glen’s reply.
Lucy Boyle’s The Quickest Way is effectively used as a leitmotif throughout the entire program. Instead of being played in sequence, its brief scenes are staged in-between the rest of the evening’s works, like interludes. It is a clever theatrical device, even though some of the dialogue ends up being repetitive, and the theme of rebounding is hammered down with a bit of a heavy hand.
There was no rebounding whatsoever in Liza Birkenmeier’s Indescribable Snack, which all but ignored the series’s theme, making its two heroines admit in no uncertain terms, by the play’s end, that they are headed for spinsterhood.
All is Bright by Dan Moyer concluded the series and offered the most nuanced material, allowing its capable cast to flex more complex actorly muscles. At a pizza parlor during Santacon, Heather (Jenni Putney), who is dressed as an elf, unexpectedly breaks up with Buzz (Noah Averbach-Katz) who is dressed as Santa. After Buzz storms out of the store, berating Heather, she picks up a conversation with Lee (James B. Kennedy), who has witnessed the entire exchange and is also dressed as Santa. Outfitted in their ridiculous clothing, the pair strike up a conversation about life and love and loss. It is funny, absurd, sorrowful and touching.
The Spring Fling: Rebound – World-Premiere Plays by Ngozichukwuka Anyanwu, Liza Birkenmeier, Lucy Boyle, Ryan King, Dan Moyer, Matthew Paul Olmos, & Leah Nanako Winkler.
Directed by Saheem Ali, Sash Bischoff, Jess Beckley-Chayes, John Giampietro, Anne Cecelia Haney, Candis C. Jones, & Annie Tippe.
Featuring Megan Branch, Michael Braun, Jimmie JJ Jeter, Mara Kassin, James Kennedy, Emma Kikue, Vasthy Mompoint, Allyson Morgan, Jay Patterson, José Joaquín Pérez, Jenni Putney, Joshua David Robinson, & Erin Wilhelmi.
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