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A CurtainUp Review
Marathon 2002: Series A
Ensemble Studio Theatre's 25th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays
"Lark", "Why I Followed You", "Salvage Baas" and "Reunions"

by Les Gutman

Temperatures outside are starting to climb, rain is falling fairly regularly and a new crop of short plays are sprouting at Ensemble Studio Theatre's annual Marathon series. This year marks the silver anniversary of this program and, we might add, the 6th year of our coverage of them. The first series this year has a running time that is somewhat longer than usual for the Marathon. Interestingly enough (and perhaps there is a lesson in this), the shortest is by far the sweetest.

C. Hutchinson
and W. Corbett
(Photos: Carol Rosegg)
The evening opens with Romulus Linney's "Lark", a two-hander in which a young piano student, Thea Kronberg (Winslow Corbett), arrives in Chicago to take lessons from Albert Sanderson (Chris Hutchinson). She is frustrated and naturally frightened; he is a former pianist who has reluctantly taken up teaching after injuring his hand. Not surprisingly, they learn a good deal from one another, and the work has a good deal to say about the nature of artistic expression and finding one's true "voice". It is nice -- indeed inventively -- staged, but this cannot overcome some clunky scenes in which Thea moves the story forward by praying, or an ending which is disappointingly cheap. Ms. Corbett is outstanding, delivering a nuanced performance. Mr. Hutchinson is not; he seems to be doing little more than reading his lines.

Why I Followed You
T. Poser
and T. Gallagher
Toby Poser plays an edgy, hesitant yet peculiarly aggressive woman in "Why I Followed You". She follows the man portrayed by Felix Solis twice in fact, once into a coffee shop and later into a bar. Soon, it becomes clear she is not so much searching for him as for herself, and her seemingly lost youth. He ends up doing some searching too. Lisa Maria Radano raises some interesting issues, and her writing is very clever, but it gets bogged down toward the end as she overloads the woman with baggage she can't possibly carry. Both performances are exceptional: Ms. Poser exploits but does not overplay the essential creepiness of her character, and finds the path to her injured soul as well. Mr. Solis finds the perfect balance between his character's cocky exterior and inner warmth.

Salvage Baas
G. Ewing
and C. Farmer
The two fine performances in "Salvage Baas" are mostly wasted on a script that is hard to decipher and doesn't go very far when it has rare moments of lucidity. Goody Aboo (Cyrus Farmer) and Moses Bobo (Geoffrey C. Ewing) are in a salvage yard in a small town in Nigeria. The concept is an intriguing one -- two everyday men waxing poetic as divergent visionaries of the new Africa -- and there is entertaining interplay between the two of them, but the play is just as much a clunker as the Chrysler Bobo is pirating in the yard, and it stalls just as badly too. Seret Scott seems to take it as she finds it, and that doesn't get the job done.

H. Chernov
and G. Shaud
Billy Aronson's "Reunions" is so much better than the other offerings in this series, it's not really fair. The setting is a high school reunion where almost everyone has arrived with a speech prepared to validate what they've been doing with their lives. There's the self-indulgent Tabby Eckersly (Hope Chernov), energized by the world of independent publishing, the motherhood-obsessed Sarah Burke Nelson (Kathrine Leask), the lonesome, defeated Alan Roads (Thomas Lyons) and Rick Arzoomanian (Grant Shaud), a somewhat successful pirate deflated to discover a more successful competitor in attendance. These characters are played beautifully on the recognitional humor that is abundant in their conditions. But Aronson (and his director, Jamie Richards) have more fun and surprises in store for us. That Brandon Tavelle (Lyons) has become a warlock certainly raises eyebrows, but what's really a treat is Nancy McCann (Maria Gabriele) who is, quite matter-of-factly, now a giraffe, and the pièce de résistance, Connie Cummings (Leask), who is the new Santa Claus. The latter's monologue on the joys of Santa-dom is a brilliantly delivered treasure, and worth the 125 minute wait.

Sets. lighting. costumes and sound, as we have come to expect from prior Marathons, are well-suited, simple and dexterously transitioned.

97 Series C 
98 Series A B C 
99 Series A B 
00 Series A B C 
01 Series A B C

by Romulus Linney, from a novel by Willa Cather
Directed by Peter Maloney
with Winslow Corbett and Chris Hutchinson

by Lisa Maria Radano
Directed by Deborah Hedwall
with Toby Poser, Felix Solis and Tomothy L. Gallagher

by Brian Silberman
Directed by Seret Scott
with Cyrus Farmer and Geoffrey C. Ewing

by Billy Aronson
Directed by Jamie Richards
with Hope Chernov, Kathrine Leask, Thomas Lyons, Grant Shaud and Maria Gabriele
Set Design: Jennifer Varbalow
Costume Design: Leslie Bernstein
Lighting Design: Greg MacPherson
Sound Design: Robert Gould
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including one intermission
Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street, 2d Flr. (10/11 Avs.)
Telephone (212) 247-4982
Opening May 8, 2002 closing May 19, 2002
MON and WED - SAT @7:30, SAT - SUN @3; $30 (Marathon Pass to all 3 series: $75)
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 5/9/02 performance

Details on the Remaining Series in Marathon 2001

Series B runs 5/22 - 6/2 and features "Salvation" by Bill Bozzone, "Adaptation" by Roger Heddon, "Prisoner's Song" by Horton Foote and "Am Lit, or Hibernophilia" by Dan O'Brian.

Series C runs 6/5 - 6/16 and features "My Father's Funeral" by Peter Maloney, "Union City, NJ, Where Are You?" by Rogelio Martinez, "Hope Bloats" by Patricia Scanlon and "The Moon Bath Girl" by Graeme Gillis
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