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A CurtainUp Review
Marathon 2002: Series C
Ensemble Studio Theatre's 25th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays
"Hope Bloats", "Union City, New Jersey, Where Are You?", "My father's Funeral" and "The Moon Bath Girl"

by David Lohrey

As in the previous installments, it is the acting that shines in this last segment of EST's Marathon. All four plays stand out for their perfect casts and fine acting. All but one of the plays function as confessions delivered by the main character directly to the audience. The writing is good, but the use of the stage is limited.

Patricia Scanlon & David Simonds
Patricia Scanlon & David Simonds
All photos: Carol Rosegg)
"Hope Bloats" features Joe (Dave Simonds) and Peggy (Patricia Scanlon) in a kitchen sink variation of Martha and George from you know who's you know what. Ms. Scanlon, who authored the piece, plays a wreck of a housewife whose chief occupation seems to be hanging for dear life onto reality. Chiefly delivered as a monologue, the work is studded with booby-trap lines that explode in one's mind. Here Diane Arbus meets Sylvia Plath. Ms Scanlon offers a performance equal to her often-powerful writing, although the lack of a single, compelling action makes the piece theatrical while not being especially dramatic. Simonds is more than competent as the badgered, if not battered, husband. His comic departures into the bedroom offer his counterpart the time she needs to spill her guts, in what becomes an amusing and at times disturbing series of comments on the emptiness of modern life. If the play resembles Tennessee Williams' "Portraitof a Madonna", here the Madonna knows she is half-cracked. Her awareness adds an intellectual depth absent from the piece by Williams. The play is directed with wit by David Briggs.

Union City, New Jersey
Felix Solis, Julien A. Carrasquillo and Rosie Perez
Rogelio Martinez's "Union City, New Jersey" is a memory piece told by a 12-year old boy (Julien A. Carrasquillo). As with the previous piece, the writing consists of narrative confession as opposed to dramatic confrontation. What is lost in tension is gained in sentiment. The piece succeeds because of the author's lack of pretentious cynicism. The boy's honest appraisal of his love for his parents is moving. This is partly due to the fine performances of Carrasquillo and Rosie Perez who plays the boy's world-weary mother. Together they offer a portrait of domestic affection. Felix Solis is fine as the father, although there is not as much of him to see. Their scenes together prove that the play's strength can be found when the characters interact. The lengthy monologue postpones what is both inevitable and most dramatically rewarding. While not quite a play, this memorial to family has many possibilities. The author captures well pre-adolescent innocence and exposes the need children have for love and stability. The themes are rich.

Peter Maloney and Griffith Maloney
Peter Maloney & Griffith Maloney
Domestic turmoil becomes domestic chaos in Peter Maloney's highly amusing "My Father's Funeral." The play opens at a funeral home as Peter (Peter Maloney) delivers what promises to be a typical if funny eulogy for his father. We sit, listen, and settle back. As soon as we do though, all hell breaks loose. Part skit, part meditation, part commedia del arte extravaganza, this bizarre work throws one curve after another at the audience until the lights go down. Maloney is marvelous as the mourning son who can't deliver a straight line about his deceased father. Just what to make of the antics that ensue should be left to the viewer, but it is worth mentioning that as crazy as things become, nothing quite prepares one for the finale, which is accomplished with the aid of numerous wonderful stage props and costumes. All that's missing from this three-ring circus is the smell of elephant dung. Peter Maloney is a master at delivering the withering compliment. His son, Griffith, who plays a character whose part is too odd for words, possesses the physique and facial features of a born comedian.

"The Moon Bath Girl" brings the evening to a close. Unlike the previous offerings, this play presents two characters in search of communication with each other, and not with the audience. There are no confessions, no monologues, no moments of transport to another realm. We are in the here and now. Anna (Alicia Goranson) is a young gal, what was once known as the wholesome girl next door, who is desperate for the physical attentions of Terry (Michael Esper), a rather pleasant fellow whose mind is on other things, including another girl who seems to be behind his reach. Anna, played with arresting concentration and increasing desperation, can't quite get her mind around the fact that Terry doesn't want to screw. Ms Goranson is marvelous in this role. The dialogue is rich with contemporary adolescent idiom, quirky and expressive of our semi-literate youth. Esper is just dandy as the hesitant young male, although just why he can't bring himself to go all the way with this young temptress remains a mystery. This play, like the others, is about missed connections, but at least here the characters haven't given up on each other and address themselves directly, without appealing to the audience for final arbitration.

Reviews of previous evenings in this year's Marathon series:
Series A
Series B

Links to prior seasons' Marathon reviews:
97 Series C
98 Series A B C
99 Series A B
00 Series A B C
01 Series A B C
02 Series A

by Patricaia Scanlon
Directed by David Briggs
with Dave Simonds, Patricia Scanlon

by Rogelio Martinez
Directed by Randal Myler
with Rosie Perez, Felix Solis, Julien A. Carrasquillo

by Peter Maloney
Directed by Beatrice Terry
with Peter Maloney, Griffith Maloney

by Graeme Gillis
Directed by Eliza Beckwith
with Michael Esper, Alicia Goranson
Set Design: Jennifer Varbalow
Costume Design: Bruce Goodrich
Lighting Design: Greg MacPherson
Sound Design: Robert Gould
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including one intermission
Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street, 2d Flr. (10/11 Avs.)
Telephone (212) 247-4982
Opening June 5, 2002 closing June 16, 2002
MON and WED - SAT @7:30, SAT - SUN @3; $30 (Marathon Pass to all 3 series: $75)
Reviewed by David Lohrey based on 6/08/02 performance
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