By Tulis McCall
This year’s crop of Summer Shorts is a ho-hum, hum drum sort of an evening. At Series B the evening featured three plays, each with a solid core of an intriguing idea that was then dressed up with too many words and not enough action.
LUCKY by Sharr White, directed by J.J. Kandel
With Blake DeLong and Christine Spang
It is 1949 in nowhere America. Meredith (Christine Spang) and Phil (Blake DeLong) are being reunited after several years apart. He has been in the service. He was in a hospital, but no one knows quite why because he was not physically hurt. It has been six years since he left, and the only reason he came back into town was for a funeral. Meredith is here to find out where they stand and if they are going to go on together. It is clear to us that Phil has PTSD, and what is compelling about this premise is that this is a time before we had labels for everything. In a well written burst of exasperation Meredith lets Phil know what she has been going through – since he does not want to talk about himself. While all the other boys have returned from the war to pick up their lives and start buying everything in sight, she has become an outcast. No one knows what to do with this woman with a husband whose whereabouts are unknown. Her future lies in the balance, but Phil is unable to take on event modicum of responsibility. The story never achieves liftoff, as if it were grounded by Phil’s paralysis.
APPOMATTOX by Neil LaBute, directed by Duane Boutté
With Ro Boddie and Jack Mikesell
Two casual friends, Frank (Ro Boddie) and Joe (Jack Mikesell) have gotten together, as they always do, to toss a ball around and shoot the crap. Guy time. On this day, however, Joe brings up the subject of some Georgetown University students who have made a move to pay reparations to the tune of $27.20 to be tacked onto their tuition (approximately $50,000) each semester. Joe is impressed and moved by this. Frank, not so much. It is gratuitous and insufficient – which is not what he actually says but it is what he actually means. And Joe, bless his little white heart, will not let this go. He wheedles and pushes in the nicest possible way until the debate gets away from them and spirals into a fully formed argument. Of the three plays, this is the one that completes its mission. We are left stunned and a little frightened by watching how easily sands can shift.
PROVIDENCE by Nancy Bleemer, directed by Ivey Lowe
With Blair Lewin, Jake Robinson, and Nathan Wallace
Michael (Jake Robinson) and Renee (Blair Lewin) have returned “home” for his sister’s wedding. The night before Renee is waked by menstrual discomfort. She is fearing an onset of a flood and must wake her husband so that he can help her take care of this. It is going to require a trip to a drug store. While they are bickering about this, the soon-to-be brother-in-law Pauly (Nathan Wallace) knocks on their door. He just happened to overhear them talking and is nervous enough to risk rejection. He wants to know what it is like, being married. More importantly he wants to know if Michael and Renee were certain they were doing the right thing when they got married. Plausible questions certainly. It might have worked better if the time hadn’t been 3:30 in the morning. Not certain, but this situation never quite landed – in spite of the excellent ensemble work by these actors. And, not for nothing, but if you are going to have a clock visible so that we all know it is 3:30 – please have the clock hands move. Otherwise we feel like we are stuck in time, and this does not help anyone.
AS ALWAYS the technical staff, especially the stage hands changing the sets, deserve SUPREME accolades.
The design team includes Rebecca Lord-Surratt (set design); Greg MacPherson (lighting design); Amy Sutton (costume design); Nick Moore (sound design/composer); Joshua Langman (projection design); and Jenna Snyder and Alexander Wylie (props design). The Production Stage Manager for Series A is Dee Dee Katchen. The Production Stage Manager for Series B is Jenna R. Lazar. The associate producer is Sarah Cronk. The technical director is Dan Teachout.
59E59 Theaters (Val Day, Artistic Director; Brian Beirne, Managing Director) is thrilled to welcome Throughline Artists (J.J. Kandel, Producing Artistic Director) with SUMMER SHORTS 2019, the annual festival of six short plays tailor-made for summer viewing. SUMMER SHORTS 2019 begins on Friday, July 19 and runs through Saturday, August 31. Two series featuring three one-act plays in each will play in rotating repertory Tuesday – Friday at 7:15 PM; Saturday & Sunday at 2:15 PM and 7:15 PM. Please note, there is no matinee performance on Saturday, July 20. Individual calendar schedule of performance dates for Series A and Series B is available for viewing/download. Press Opening for Series A is Sunday, July 28 at 7:15 PM. Press Opening for Series B is Sunday, August 4 at 2:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $25 – $35 ($26 for 59E59 Members).