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A CurtainUp Review
Love/ Stories (or But You Will Get Used to It)
By Elyse Sommer
The connection between the plays is forged by Michelle Tattenbaum's polished direction and in the way the five actors pop up repeatedly but in different and always expertly defined roles; also by the theme of how men and women relate to each other and the inside look at the author trying to write about them.
These playlets lack the substance of the author's full length Bach at Leipzig, The Four of Us and, more recently, Back Back Back (see review links below). However, these attractive young actors easily wrest every drop of humor and meaningful subtext from their characters so that even the less satisfying pieces are not without their high spots. Jerad Schomer's scenic design gives the actors a chance to inhabit every part of the venue's wide stage.
The intermissionless show gets off to a terrific start with "Chemistry Read" in which a director (Maren Langdon) and a playwright (Felipe Bonilla) are auditioning an actor (Michael Micalizzi) for a part. Trouble is that the actor who impresses the director, distresses the playwright since it turns out that he's the man for whom his girlfriend has left him. A fourth character, the audition reader (Laurel Holland) comes to the playwright's rescue.
From this witty backstage pastiche, it's on to the evening's very best offering, "Temps." Here a man and woman (Micalizzi and Langdon) sit side by side at desks in an anywhere/any industry office. The man, clearly a nondescript clerk whose job it is to stamp and staple countless copies of a document, becomes a captive audience to the woman's phone conversation with what turns out to be her ex-lover. Langdon is delightful as the increasingly hysterical woman. Micalizzi is nothing short of brilliant in the nonverbal role of the co-worker who is alternately shocked, sympathetic, frustrated about not being able to stamp and stable without disturbing the phone conversation—and, yes, hopeful that her unhappy romance will turn out to be his lucky day.
"Szinhaz," which I saw previously at a one-act evening by Naked Angels (also directed by Tattenbaum but with different actors), is now as then a hilarious take on a lecture/interview in which a Hungarian avante-garde director's (Bonilla) words are relayed to the audience by a drolly accented interpreter (Langdon). The interpreter turns out to also be his fickle lover and a leadng actor in his Chekhov productions of "The Garbage Bird and the Triangle of Sisters." Bonilla and Langdon get the linguistic humor just right, even though the play, now as then, could use a some blue penilling.
As much fun as every part of this quintet provides, it would have been even better if the author had reigned in his urge to make himself quite so much a part of the proceedings. "Authorial Intent" is an amusing yet touching piece about a couple (Holland and Micalizzi) facing the reality of living together that doesn't need Moses as channelled by John Russo extending it into a complicated meta-theatrical analysis of what turns out to be a play within a play. The final piece again has Moses-cum-Russo take the stage as a writer trying to transform an immobile and silent man and woman (Laurel Holland and Felipe Bonilla) into characters in a play which, understandably, never happens. Holland and Bonilla ability to hold their inactive poses is amazing, but the play itself is something of a let down to an otherwise thumbs up entertainment.
Moses as an integral part of the evening's fun works best via his voice-over introduction. All except the most jaded theater goers will find it one of the least boring cellphone and candy announcement on any Manhattan stage. Not that it prevented one audience cellphone at the performance I attended from going off. Obviously Who bad audience manners apply downtown as well as uptown.
Other plays by Itamar Moses reviewed at Curtainup:
Bach at Leipzig
The Four of Us
Back Back Back