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A CurtainUp Review
Summer Shorts 2, Series A
The Waters of March, Crossing the Border, On a Bench, Deep in a Hole

The Summer Shorts Series is back at 59E59 theaters for its second season. The format once again takes its cue from the long running EST One-Act Marathon Series. Unfortunately, this year's series gets off to a disappointing start. This is true even for Leslie Lyles and Eduardo Machado, whose contributions to last year's Series A Curtainup critic Les Gutman liked very much. (Review Summer Shorts 2007)

The Waters of March by Leslie Lyles stars the wonderful Amy Irving as Arriana, a has-been, alcoholic cabaret singer trying to decide whether she wants to continue living. The play alternates between memories of
seventeen years in an apartment without windows, performing in New York and Buenos Aires and sinking into alcoholic despair with brief renditions of the kind of songs that made up the singer's repertoire.

Director Billy Hopkins was most probably stuck with the Maruti Evans's set design, which stores props in asymmetric shelves on all three sides, making the stage look something like a furniture warehouse. He was definitely handicapped by Lyles' script which goes no place and explains nothing. Even Irving's considerable talents and Hopkins' evident capabilities couldn't save this one.

Eduardo Machado's Crossing the Border takes place somewhere in Mexico where Jacinto (Mando Alvarado), an ambitious father, is teaching his son, Manuel (Gio Perez), baseball in the hope that he will one day become a star in America, like so many Hispanics before him. The first problem here is that it takes place in the same furniture warehouse as the previous play. Thus when the father, a tour guide who makes his living off "a bunch of Texans," tries to convince his son that hitting home runs will help him get "out of here," it's not clear at first where "here" is.

The second problem is that Alvarado is obviously Hispanic, while Perez (despite his name) seems like a typical Anglo, a jarring note that should have been evident to director Randall Myler. But the biggest problem is that this play, too, keeps circling around the same theme going no place and resolving nothing. It's a nice slice-of-life, but it is not drama.

On a Bench, by Neil Koenigsberg and directed by Merri Milwe, is about a fortuitous meeting between Robert (David Beck), a young gay man sitting on a park bench, reading a book about the Stonewall uprising, and Anne (Mary Joy), an older woman who, as it turns out, has a personal relationship with that event. Joy's zany performance as the New Yorker stopping for a bite (a black and white cookie) before going to her beauty parlor appointment with "Xavier" infuses the one-act with great promise, despite Beck's overly nerdy and stereotypical gay youth. But then the show descends into lachrymose sentimentality and self-righteous proselytizing. We should be asking something more from theater than knee-jerk pleas for gay empowerment — no matter how worthy that sentiment may be.

The final offering of the evening, Roger Hedden's Deep in the Hole, recounts the adventures of four people in their twenties (or perhaps thirties, given the current infantilization of youth), Glen (J.J. Kandel), Lindy (Kendra Mylnechuk), Ben (David Ross) and Cindy (Emily Tremaine). The show has an episodic nature, which gives director Billy Hopkins a lot more to do than the directors of the other shows. Indeed Deep in the Hole unravels as a network sitcom with no commercials between scenes and lots of cussing. It goes something like this:

Scene 1: Two guys discuss drinking and how much one should pay for "a decent bottle of vodka", which turns out to be a running joke in the show.

Scene 2: Two girls discuss one of the guys and whether or not the lucky girl whom he is attracted to is going to sleep with him (only "sleep with" is this reviewer's prudish euphemism).

Scene 3: The girls and the guys meet. Their conversation revolves around one of the guys' revelations that he never wears the same T-shirt twice.

Scene 4: The girls and the guys play spin the bottle. One couple engages in extensive kissing while the other couple looks on in some consternation.

Scene 5: One couple is left alone in the apartment while the other couple goes off to get a fresh bottle of vodka. The girl reveals that she has intercepted a letter that arrived at her office containing a mysterious white powder that may be "blow" or anthrax.

Scene 6: The couple on the mission to find vodka returns while the first couple is engaged in the bedroom. The guy finds the mysterious powder, decides it is blow and snorts. The first couple comes out of the bedroom. Is the white powder blow or anthrax? This becomes the vital question the play explores.

And that's it for the evening. Here's hoping that Series B, which Curtainup will also review, will be more incisive and enjoyable.

Summer Shorts 2, Series A
The Waters of March
By Leslie Lyles
Directed by Billy Hopkins
Cast: Amy Irving (Arriana)
Crossing the Border
By Eduardo Machado
Directed by Randall Myler
Cast: Mando Alvarado (Jacinto), Gio Perez (Manuel)
On a Bench
By Neil Koenigsberg
Directed by Merri Milwe
Cast: David Beck (Robert), Anne (Mary Joy)
Deep in the Hole
By Roger Hedden
Directed by Billy Hopkins
Cast: J.J. Kandel (Glen), Kendra Mylnechuk, David Ross (Ben), Emily Tremaine (Cindy)
Set Design: Maruti Evans
Costume Design: Michael Bevins, Megan Sanders
Lighting Design: Maruti Evans
Props: Amanda J. Haley
Sound Designer: Chris Cotone
Running Time: 2 hours, including one intermission
59E59 Theater, 59 East 49th Street
SERIES A: July 31st — August 28th
For the performance schedule as well as lineup for Series B, see the 59E59 Theaters Website:
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Aug. 2, 2008
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