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EST Marathon 2008 Series C
Ensemble Studio Theatre's 30th Festival of One-Act Plays
"Piscary," "In Between Songs," "Flowers," "Japanoir," and " A Very Very Short Play"
By Jenny Sandman
While I applaud Ensemble Studio Theatre long-running commitment to one-act plays—this is their 30th annual festivalit seems they have chosen to end this year’s series on a particularly weak note. None of the five short pieces have much of a story. Japanoir is the most developed play of the evening, butit still falls short of being really satisfying.
The first play, Piscary by Frank D. Gilroy, describes a mid-break-up couple duking it out over a final game of Scrabble. If she wins, they stay together; if he wins, they get to break up and she keeps everything. It turns out she’s been letting him win all along.
In Between Songs by Frank Black has three aging ex-hippies getting high and listening to Bob Dylan, which is about as interesting as it sounds. Stoned people are only interesting if you’re stoned as well, and middle-aged yuppies trying to recapture their youth with pot and Bob Dylan just makes you wonder "Is this what I’ll be reduced to in a few years?" Like stoners everywhere, these simply ramble; the play never latches on to a theme or even really a point.
The latter half of the evening seems on the surface to be devoted to fantasy, but comes off merely as cute. Flowers by Jose Rivera could be a foray into Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like magical realism, as a young Californian girl named Lulu turns into a flower. First tubes sprout from her face, then hibiscus blossoms, then leaves and vines twirl out from her arms, and finally she takes root in the front yard. Her dim brother attributes this to the fact that she is really a goddess. In a larger work, perhaps her botanical transformation could be placed in a larger context, but in such a short play, it’s inane. Actress Flora Diaz does a great job with what she’s given, but deserves better material.
"Japanoir," by Michael Feingold, chief drama critic of the Village Voice, is a much longer exploration of Japanese film noir, described as a "Westerner’s fantasy/meditation on Japanese film" in Feingold’s author’s note. A Japanese auteur director is working on two separate noir films, which he dubs "Love" and "Money," though they are essentially the same. The action cuts back and forth between the two films and between his interview with a film magazine columnist. This play actually may have worked better as a longer piece; in its current incarnation, it’s tantalizing but unfulfilling. There are too many characters and too many subplots to work as a short play, despite the excellent ensemble acting.
A Very Very Short Play by Jacquelyn Reingold is the story of a twelve-inch woman meeting a twelve-foot, eight-inch man on a flight. They share a cream puff and fall in love. The most precious of the bunch, the play fails to answer the most obvious question—how could a twelve-foot man fly without being folded into three parts in the cargo section? I’m less than half that height and still manage to be vastly uncomfortable in an airplane. Most seats seem to be perfectly sized for the foot-tall woman. Actors Julie Fitzpatrick and Adam Dannheisser mesh well together, but again, they deserve better material.
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The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide