Summer Shorts – Series A – Diverse and Entertaining

Jack by Melissa Ross
Directed by Mimi O’Donnell

Maggie (Claire Karpen) and George (Quincy Dunn-Baker) meet at a park bench near the dog run, presumably at 80th and Columbus Avenue. (A background image shows The Museum of Natural History.) They’re both upset, George that he tried to reach her all night and couldn’t, Maggie that she hadn’t been reached. (Her phone was off.) There’s been a death.

It’s pretty clear early on both that their beloved pet Jack has passed and that the couple is estranged – it turns out, divorced. For six months, the dog had been ferried back and forth between their two homes like a child. The couple are “at” one another in a way only intimacy could have prefaced. Both have ostensibly moved on but not quite let go. While high strung Maggie is close to hysteria, George is calm, practical, and irritated by the irrationality of his ex…until, finally, he also breaks.

The short tale is credibly written and believably performed. Both actors admirably display character specific tension. Both almost cry with skill. Karpen is gloriously infuriating.

Mimi O’Donnell’s Direction comprehends the stops and starts of emotionality.

Bill Buell and Dana Watkins; Bill Buell and Wekler White

Playing God by Alan Zweibel
Directed by Maria Mileaf

A very pregnant Barbara Graber (Flora Diaz) is due in three weeks. Her gynecologist, Doctor Fisher (Dana Watkins), presses the incipient mother into having labor induced in two – so that he can go skiing. The scene is serendipitously observed by God (Bill Buell) and his Assistant (Welker White).

The Lord is pissed off at Fisher’s selfishness and risking one of His great miracles. Determined to exact revenge, He muses on comeuppance a grimacing Assistant finds dull after omnipotent signs like parting The Red Sea. “It’s time to update your resume.”

In his robe and sandals, God materializes at The Boca Raton Racquet Club where Fisher can’t find anyone to play. With no visible effort (watch the insouciant gestures), God wins and wins and wins. Unrepentant repartee is extremely frustrating, to Him however. Eventual punishment fits the slight.

A former Saturday Night Live writer, Alan Zweibel’s wit is dry and sharp.

Bill Buell (God) creates a worthy manifestation. The veteran ‘s comic timing, both verbal and physical is pitch perfect.

Director Maria Mileaf does a yeoman-like job.

Sam Lilja, Orlagh Cassidy, Bronte England-Nelson, Ted Koch

Acolyte by Graham Moore
Directed by Alexander Dinelaris

Acolyte is the most intellectual and difficult play of the six showcased this year. It’s also the one that might, with a bit more accessibility, be successfully expanded. Though three philosophers debate reality, logic, Aristotle, Plato, sex, honesty, rational and ethical egoism, all or some of which may be out of reach, ultimate provocation is disturbingly personal and human.

The domineering Ayn Rand (an absolutely superb Orlagh Cassidy), Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter, is holding court in her living room. Young married acolytes, Barbara and Nathaniel Branden, are regulars at these intimate dinners. Rand’s patient, loving husband, Frank O’Connor, is a little drunk and admittedly over his head where his wife’s theories are concerned.

Like the serpent in the Garden, our hostess slowly gets around to expressing a self-serving suggestion i.e. demand, replete with implicit threat, in accordance with philosophy that can bend to rationalize almost any behavior. The premise reeks of amorality.

Besides an exquisite Ms. Cassidy, the cast features Bronte England-Nelson (Barbara) who seamlessly swings from blade smart, to insecure, to firebrand with credibility, Ted Koch (O’Connor) whose vulnerability and focus never waver, and Sam Lilja.

Director Alexander Dinelaris does a crackerjack job, but for a nebulous Nathanial.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Quincy Dunn-Baker and Claire Karpen

Throughline Artists presents Summer Shorts
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
In repertory through September 2, 2017

About Alix Cohen (754 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.