Summer Shorts – Festival of New American Short Plays – Series A

Interior by Nick Payne
Directed by Rory McGregor

An Old Man (Bill Buell) and A Stranger (Jordan Bellow) have been thrown together by the discovery of a dead girl hauled out of a local lake. The Old Man has asked for moral support as he informs her family, his neighbors. The men stand outside her house watching a warm, domestic scene (way too long) while the Old Man agonizes about how to deliver the news.

Really, that’s the whole story. The Old Man’s grandchildren Marie (Mariah Lee) and Martha (Joanna Whicker) run ahead of their community carrying the body home. Soon it will be too late to make the horror private. At last, the senior enters.

It would be unfathomable to me that the same playwright who accomplished Constellations  and A Life, authored this piece were it not for the note that it’s an adaptation of symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck’s play of the same name. Alas, atmosphere is everything here.

I didn’t buy the Old Man for a minute. The rest of the company does fine.

Direction by Rory McGregor is pedestrian.

Lights in windows of a projected house unaccountably blaze. There’s so little illumination on The Old Man, however, we miss every expression until he steps inside.

Sound, if more operatic than the play deserves, is immensely evocative. Reminiscent of Wings of Desire, it’s both spooky and Angelic.

John (James P. Rees) and Alex (Christopher Dylan White)

The Bridge Play by Danielle Trzcinski
Directed by Sarah Cronk

John (James P. Rees) has climbed the George Washington Bridge to end it all. Apparently he has no one, hates his job, and feels too insignificant to go on. Drugs and therapy haven’t “worked.” Announcing his intention to space, he’s interrupted by young millennial, Alex (Christopher Dylan White), who wants to know what’s going on. The boy attempts to tape the event for use with a college essay he feels sure will cinch him a spot. You can imagine how this sits with John. So far so good.

Interrupted by a call from Alex’s friend who’s dealing with a clogged toilet, John is actually sufficiently distracted to instruct him. If this weren’t enough to eliminate earlier credibility, Alex is so naïve (and obtuse) as to seem stupid. We learn, among other things, he literally doesn’t think older (35 year olds) people have sex. Only a blatantly metaphoric story about a lighthouse is distinctive.

The cliché play needs more compelling dialogue – kept between its protagonists and a rewritten Alex.

James P. Rees deserves better.

Director Sarah Cronk offers nothing unexpected.

Swell projection of the bridge and the river aids veracity.

Maris (Libe Barer) and Joseph (Robbie Tann)

Here I Lie by Courtney Baron
Directed by Maria Mileaf

Maris (Libe Barer) is a junior editor with aspirations to become the next Nan Talese. She’s contemporary and chirpy. After years, a manuscript on which she might base reputation has come across her desk. It’s a memoir by a young man dying of cancer. When her boss rolls her eyes, Maris says, “The manuscript touched me because I know what he’s going through,” implying she too is ill.

Joseph (Robbie Tann) is the only male nurse in the neonatal ward of a hospital. Based on the way he talks about infants, you’d want him with yours. The caregiver is particularly drawn to one particular preemie, secretly naming him Joseph. Successive physical symptoms and growths the nurse experiences have been variously diagnosed. He may or may not have cancer.

Munchausen’s Syndrome is a psychological disorder where someone pretends to be ill or deliberately produces symptoms of illness in themselves. Maris’ version becomes a bizarrely reasoned out, brakeless train. Do Joseph’s physical manifestations erupt from the same source? The two characters speak side by side, rarely looking at one another till later on, interacting an ambiguously surreal finale.

Though Maris’ trajectory is more believable than Joseph’s, Courtney Baron has written a fascinating and unnerving piece.

Acting is excellent. Robbie Tan especially captures our hearts.

Director Maria Mileaf imbues each actor with supporting attributes. Focus and timing are good. Tann actually connects with the audience, however, where Barer just looks into it. Consistency would serve. I admit to being thoroughly confused about the appearance of beach gear in the winter.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Jordan Bellow (The Stranger) and Bill Buell (The Old Man)

Summer Shorts– Festival of New American Short Plays–Series A
59E59 Theaters 
Through August 31, 2019

About Alix Cohen (688 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.