The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Review
Summer Shorts 2019 — Series A
All the plays in Series A this season are studies of death and take you on journeys to quaint villages, cityscapes, publishing houses, hospital wards, and beyond. Though these dramas stretch over some pretty dark psychological terrain, what is lost in light-heartedness is compensated for by the rich spirits of characters and their courage in crisis.
Interior, adapted by Nick Payne from Maurice Maeterlinck's play of the same name and directed by Rory McGregor, is a revealing look at how a family's life can change in a nanosecond. It takes place at sunset in the back garden of a cozy-looking house that looks like it's been lifted out of a Norman Rockwell painting (gorgeous projection design by Joshua Langman). In walks an Old Man and Stranger, concealed from the family's view by a thicket of willow trees. (The sublime and well-matched Bill Buell and Jordan Bellow). They linger in the shadows, deliberating on how best to break the bad news to the family that their young daughter has drowned in the river. What makes the piece so poignant is what lies between the lines in Payne's script. Some heart-wrenching moments and inventive staging at the finale make the audience an integral part of the drama.
The tone shifts to the droll in Danielle Trzcinski's The Bridge Play, a study of a suicide-in-progress, directed by Sarah Cronk. We see a depressed middle-aged man named John (James P. Rees) prepare to jump over the edge of the George Washington Bridge in New York City. His plan, however, is interrupted by a stranger — a millennial named Alex (Christopher Dylan White) who wants to film the morbid moment on his cell phone. The playwright clearly knows exactly where she's going with where she wants her script to go and how her urban characters talk. Trzcinski's reading of John and Alex is like looking at the flipside of the coin to George Bailey and Clarence Odbody in Frank Capra's 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life. Cleverly directed by Sarah Cronk, there's real lightness in it even though it does get a bit corny at times and the ending a little too pat. The Bridge Play's strength is that each character asctually changes and becomes more sympathetic as the plot unfolds. Dollars to donuts, you will be moved by this vignette that roots for the "little guy."
The program ends surreally with Courtney Baron's Here I Lie. directed by Maria Mileaf. Th it has some good moments, it's undermined by its structural disjointedness and cluttered set. Strangers Maris (Libe Barer) and Joseph (Robbie Tann), a young editor and nurse, meet in this play and exchange their personal stories and health crises. Maris has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer; Joseph has a kind of anemia that baffles his doctors and siphons his energy. At its best these devoted young professionals reveal their aspirations, fears, and compassion for others. Yes, Maris once dreamed of being the next Nan Talese and discovering a writer like Jonathan Franzen whose talent would simply leap off the page; Joseph tells a heart-breaking tale about an un-named male infant at his neo-natal ICU (the baby's mother was a drug-addict) who he affectionately named Joe Junior. In spite of the visual distractions and static in the back-and-forth dialogue, both of the characters display so much grit as they shuffle off their mortal coils, that you are likely to keep listening to their stories right up to the last syllable.
Of course, the playwrights and actors can't make a production fly without the creative team in tow. Credit Rebecca Lord-Surratt (sets), Greg MacPherson (lighting), Amy Sutton (costumes), and Nick T. Moore (sound/composer) do their best work in the first two offerings. Interior and The Bridge Play are more attractively staged than Here I Lie, with their props strategically employed and sound design spot on (the honking in the opening moments of The Bridge Play.. evokes real Gotham atmosphere). It's difficult to say what could improve the poor laying-out of Here I Lie as the double-narrative jumps all over the place, though Nick T. Moore's uplifting song at the finale does manage to cover a multitude of sins. And, oh yes, a shout out to the stagehands, who smoothly finesse three set changes.
Although the theme of death that threads through each play in Series A might seem incongruous with the sunny days of summer, this memento mori triptych does offer something better than sunshine: a penetrating gaze into the human condition from three different authors.
Note: Series A and B run in repertory through August 31st. Though this review covers only Series A, details about what's on offer in Series B are included in the production notes.
Search CurtainUp in the box below
Summer Shorts: Series A
Here I Lie by Courtney Baron
Directed by Maria Mileaf
Cast: Libe Barer (Maris) and Robbie Tann (Joseph)
Interior by Nick Payne
Based on the Maurice Maeterlinck play of the same name
Directed by Rory McGregor
Jordan Bellow (Stranger), Bill Buell (Old Man), Mariah Lee (Marie), and Joanna Whicker (Martha)
The Bridge Play by Danielle Trzcinski
Directed by Sarah Cronk
James P. Rees (John) and Christopher Dylan White (Alex)
Sets: Rebecca Lord-Surratt
Costumes: Amy Sutton
Sound design and composer: Nick T. Moore
Lighting: Greg MacPherson
Projection design: Joshua Langman
Stage Manager: Dee Dee Katchen
Running Time for all 3 plays: 90 minutes, no intermission
59.E59E Theaters (Theater B)t. Tickets: $25-$35. Phone 646-892-7999-or online at www.e59e.org
From 7/19/19; opening 7/28/19; closing 8/31/19.
Tuesday through Friday @ 7:15; Saturday and Sunday @ 2:15pm & 7:15pm.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 7/23/19
Summer Shorts: Series B
Providence by Nancy Bleemer
Directed by Ivey Lowe
Cast: Blair Lewin, Jake Robinson, and Nathan Wallace
Appomattox by Neil LaBute
Directed by Duane Boutte
Cast: Ro Boddie and Jake Mikesell
Lucky by Sharr White
Directed by J. J. Kandel
Cast: Blake DeLong and Christine Spang
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):
Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at http://curtainupnewlinks.blogspot.com to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter