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

Lucky by Sharr White
Directed by J.J. Kandel

It’s the 1940s. War is over but it’s taken Phil (Blake DeLong) years and the impetus of his father’s death to come home. Young wife Meredith (Christine Spang) has heard that though hospitalized, he wasn’t wounded, but nothing else. Letters have gone unanswered. Even Phil’s family has no idea where he’s been. Eventually his spouse moved out of Phil’s parents’ house and got herself a job.

Having received indirect word of his return, Meredith arrives at Phil’s motel room with a great many questions. To call the veteran taciturn would be minimizing his inability/reticence to communicate. Clearly suffering from PTSD, he’s locked inside himself and lost. Despite everything she still loves him. Can the chasm be crossed?

Sharr White’s one act is well written though some allusion to what Phil has repressed would be helpful.

Both actors are excellent. Christine Spang lets us see the gradual arc of Meredith’s feelings through anger, fear, concern, frustration, and nurturing love. There’s an appealing innocence about her portrayal.

Blake DeLong plays this tightly wound soldier from the inside out. Confusion and despair are palpable. Wanting to reach for Meredith, he also can’t justify saddling her with his pain. His breakdown is well played.

Though long silences are appropriate, Director J.J. Kandel has taken them just a little too far. Otherwise characters are well defined, fraught emotion deftly and credibly expressed. Small things like Meredith’s initial reticence even to be helped off with her coat and later joining Phil on the floor are telling.

Deft radio channel surfing reveals everything we need to know about the times.

It’s patently ridiculous to have papers closed in Meredith’s handbag emerge soaking wet.

Blair Lewin (Renee), Jake Robinson (Michael), and Nathan Wallace (Pauly)

Providence by Nancy Bleemer
Directed by Ivey Lowe

On the eve of his sister’s wedding in Providence (double entendre possibly intended), married couple Renee (Blair Lewin) and Michael (Jake Robinson) are sleeping in his childhood bedroom at the family home. Or, rather, not sleeping at 3:00 a.m. She can’t get his relatives straight and needs a Tampax. He volunteers to do what he can – there being nothing open at this hour – but really just wants to get some rest. Feeling distanced, Renee wants to play a game they’ve concocted to remind them why they came together. This is a nice, millennial couple.

Incipient groom, Pauly (Nathan Wallace), having heard voices, knocks on the door. He’s got pre-wedding jitters. “What do you talk about?!” (as a married couple) he asks. (Food is apparently big in conversation.) “How did you know you were doing the right thing?” Michael: “I didn’t.” Renee: “I did.” (The bride is also sure.)

Dialogue has charm, not the least because of Nathan Wallace’s wonderfully timed, rubber-faced performance. When Pauly leaves, the couple are thrown back to familiar resources. But there’s always the game.

Though Providence is slight, it’s also believable. One can’t help but wonder about a longer piece by Bleemer.

Blair Lewin and Jake Robinson are both naturalistic actors, comfortable in their bodies, at home on stage. They relate well. We feel like voyeurs.

Director Ivey Lowe employs these skills with only necessary movement. Use of the small stage is good. Pauly’s antsy behavior is sweet.

Ro Boddie (Frank) and Jack Mikesell (Joe)

Appomattox by Neil LaBute
Directed by Duane Boutté

Frank (Ro Boddie) and Joe (Jack Mikesell) are picnicking in a park, throwing around a football. Frank is cultured, intelligent, black; Joe, innocent, preppy liberal white. They’re somehow (not clear) involved with a local college. Joe asks whether his friend has heard about a student, who, finding a slave in his ancestry, spearheads a freshman call for reparations. He thinks it’s a terrific gesture. Frank is not so sure.

Despite the black man’s unwillingness to ‘get into it,’ Joe presses. “If it’s going to be more than symbolic,” Frank says, “I think it should hurt a bit.” An increasingly heated discussion revolves around whether any price can compensate for hundreds of years of mistreatment. “You’re Irish,” Frank says. “I’m sure your family went through bad shit…nobody’s giving American Indians anything…” “They have casinos and stuff,” Joe counters, best intentions intact, persisting with societal guilt. Finally, his voice turned cold, Frank suggests a personal price/gesture Joe might make. Impasse.

Neil LaBute’s whip smart dialogue manifests this unending issue in a nutshell. The play is frustrating and powerful.

Both actors are fine, but Ro Boddie excels. Surging, yet kept-in-check anger is superb. We give the character credit for exacting thoughtfulness and almost hear his mind churn. Speech is elegant. Someone should cast him in Shakespeare. 

Duane Boutté’s Direction helps each man to a different presence. Timing is spot on.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Blake DeLong (Phil) and Christine Spang (Meredith)

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

About Alix Cohen (627 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.