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Throughline Artists

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


In its 10th year at 59E59 Theaters, the Summer Shorts Festival continues to showcase a wide variety of new, often experimental work.

The Dark Clothes of Night by Richard Alfredo
Directed by Victor Slezak

This obscure title does nothing to represent a play whose meatier part is written with nimble, black humor. Burke (Dana Watkins) is a Sam Spade-like private dick. Deadpan delivery is riddled with double entendre. When newly widowed socialite Delilah Twain (Sinem Meltem Dogan- who plays all the women) asks Burke to find her younger sister, Delia, who “started sneaking into USO Clubs and went khaki wacky,” he succumbs to her well-packaged charms. “This dame was trouble but she needed me.” He falls for the broad.


Dana Watkins, James Rees, Sinem Meltem Dogan

Suddenly we’re in a college lecture on Femme Fatales and “the devouring vagina dentata” (Latin for toothed vagina), replete with slides of fine art. Burke has shed his trench coat and fedora to become tweedy Professor Marlowe aka Rob (Dana Watkins), the kind of selfish, obtuse, 40s/50s film character whose subject –film? sociology? lets everything and everyone fall to the wayside. Cue wife Sylvie who’s given up on him and the appearance of buddy, sweet put-upon Barry (James Rees who plays all the other male characters.)

Zip! It’s back to film noir. Detective Callahan has discovered the corpse of a naked woman with neither head nor fingers (i.e. I.D.) Tucked into her “snatch” was Burke’s business card. (Imagine the joke here.) Seems this dame was too well kept to be a hooker. The dick hasn’t seen his doll in days. Worried, he goes to Delilah’s home only to be met by the equally seductive Delia- her twin.


Dana Watkins, Sinem Meltem Dogan

The two stories proceed on parallel trajectories with Burke trying to unravel a series of murders lead by My Sin perfume and Rob’s life falling apart due to women’s issues. Though the professor’s plight is credible – except for a marriage counselor who might be from Duck Soup (the Marx Brothers film) –  it’s given short shrift. Without better balance, the point loses impact. Though framing is familiar, playwright Richard Alfredo pens Burke’s tale with flair and shows every sign he could flesh out Rob’s. The piece is entertaining though its ending feels obscure and/or unfinished.

Dana Watkins shifts skillfully back and forth from doomed P.I. to hapless professor. The actor manifests Burke’s dry, monotone expression with finesse and embodies Rob rather like a Danny Kaye character without the physical quirks.

The mercurial James Rees ably personifies a range of roles from everyman Barry to Delilah and Delia’s orchid obsessed father, Fletcher Westlake. (The treatise on an ominous two-headed orchid is top notch writing.)

Sinem Meltem Dogan could go further with her femme fatales.

Direction by Alexander Dinelaris is adroit.
Projection Design by Daniel Muller works wonderfully to set evocative scenes for this piece.

Black Flag by Idris Goodwin
Directed by Logan Vaughn


Ruy Iskander, Suzette Azariah Gunn, Francesca Carpanini

Before Sydney (Francesca Carpanini), a white girl, and Deja (Suzette Azariah Gunn), a black girl, became freshmen roommates, they had Facebooked, warming to one another with anticipation. Sydney came from an upper middle class home in Georgia, Deja has “worked her ass off” to get there from Detroit. The girls unpack with friendly banter until Sydney pulls out a Confederate Flag which she hangs over her bed. The gift from her “mama” is, she says densely, a memento of Southern pride. Appalled, Deja decides not to make a fuss for fear of becoming an angry caricature in her new environment.

In the course of this interesting new take on insidious bigotry, we watch what happens as time passes. The inclusion of Deja’s date, Harry (Ruy Iskandar), an Asian American, allows playwright Idris Goodwin to indirectly expose more of Sydney’s ingrained attitudes. Made aware, she has a decision to make.

Like the preceding effort, this piece lacks balance. A bit more from Sydney might both enrich and help clarify. What is written is well written, however.

Of the three players, Suzette Azariah Gunn stands out for focus, gravity, and be-here-now presence. She knows her character.

Director Logan Vaughn handles temper and drunkenness as well as natural dialogue.

Queen by Alexander Dinelaris
Inspired by ‘The Woman Who Came at Six O’Clock’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Directed by Victor Slezak


Saverio Tuzzolo, Casandera M.J. Lollar

Working class Joe (Saverio Tuzzolo) runs (owns?) a small, neighborhood restaurant for which he also cooks. Every day around the same time, Queen (Casandera M.J. Lollar) comes in exhausted from a night of hooking and the sweet, deferential man makes her a meal on the house. Besotted, he’ll take any scrap of warmth or attention she deigns to bestow, expecting nothing more.

Today Queen looks particularly washed out, snapping at and teasing him like a mean cat. Last night she lost it and got herself into a serious jam. Just how much does Joe love her, she demands. How far would this otherwise scrupulously honest, tender- hearted man go to protect the object of his dreams?

The character of Joe is written better than that of Queen. Playwright Alexander Dinelaris is smart to paint him as a romantic without rose colored glasses. He’s also sufficiently adept to unexpectedly make us dislike the heroine despite her desperation. (Or perhaps that’s the way she’s played.)

Saverio Tuzzolo is splendid; sympathetic without being less than manly, realistic yet courtly. We see affection, hurt, hope, resignation and indecision. Close your eyes and hear Danny Aiello.

Casandera M.J. Lollar creates a genuine floozie. The performance is alas without needed nuance. Where are flickers of hope, anger, and fear?

The play also briefly features Chris McFarland as a cop named Mike.

Director Victor Slezak might take more time with his leading lady, especially as Tuzzolo is so good. The show is well paced and visually effective.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Dana Watkins

Throughline Artists presents
Summer Shorts? Festival of New American Short Plays
Series B:
The Dark Clothes of Night by Richard Alfredo; Directed by Alexander Dinelaris
Black Flag by Idris Goodwin ; Directed by Logan Vaughn
Queen by Alexander Dinelaris;Directed by Victor Slezak
59E59 Theatres
59 East 59th Street
Through September 3, 2016

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


In its 10th year at 59E59 Theaters, the Summer Shorts Festival continues to showcase a wide variety of new, often experimental work.

The Helpers by Cusi Cram
Directed by Jessi D. Hill

“Oh, fucking Christ. If you want to do something nice for the person you treated as a shit bag, don’t bring the drink of your choice,” Jane aka Dr. Friedman (Maggie Burke), mutters to herself watching former patient Nate (David Deblinger) approach with what appears to be coffee. Jane drinks tea, in fact, Lady Grey Tea, something Nate should remember after 15 years of therapy with her.

Two years ago, Nate didn’t turn up for a session and disappeared. Jane is still palpably angry and wondering why she agreed to the park meeting. There’s some catch-up small talk, she barbed, he warm and conciliatory. Despite what seems like a series of negative, life changing events, he’s doing fine. Jane, however, has taken to talking to an invisible being-in public. Nate’s seen her doing it. Concerned with the looks given her, he wants to help.

This brief play reveals who she’s talking to and why with Nate volunteering to act as an ear if she’ll keep those conversations private. That an analyst and her patient should act as if they’re intimate friends is unlikely unless affection and trust developed over time after sessions ended. Jane’s comes too quickly to believe. Nate seems to be crossing a line.

Otherwise, dialogue feels natural as delivered by two low key, credible actors who deserve better.

Jessi D. Hill’s Direction is comfortably realistic.

After the Wedding by Neil LaBute
Directed by Maria Mileaf

Elizabeth Masucci as Woman, Frank Harts as Man

A young couple, here named Man (Frank Harts) and Woman (Elizabeth Masucci) sit at opposite ends of the stage in chairs facing us. (Don’t you hate when a playwright is too lazy to give his characters names as if pretentiously delivering some universal truth?) There’s no fourth wall, both address the audience.

Their wedding anniversary of 5 or 6 years- he says 5, she says 6, and the fact that they’re moving, starting a new chapter on the west coast, provokes a look back at life together so far. This is a happy couple, admiring and respectful of one another. They recollect, finishing each other’s sentences with unimportantly slight differences in perception.

At the core of memories is a conceivably preventable tragedy that occurred the night of their honeymoon. Long swept under the rug, it pokes its head out around this time of year. The event, or rather their behavior at the time, is shocking to us, though not, even in retrospect, to them.

This is the most successful of the three slight plays. Dialogue is completely believable, filled with little details. Director Maria Mileaf creates overlapping rhythms essential to flow while showing sufficient glimpses of feeling to keep narrative from becoming a novel exercise.

Elizabeth Mascucci is the more sympathetic actor, taking us in with calm gentility and an openness not mirrored in her partner. Frank Harts does a yeoman-like job but never allows us to feel he’s really sharing rather than saying lines.

This Is How It Ends by Rey Pamatmat
Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskander
Commissioned by and premiered at the 2011 Humana Festival of New American Plays

Chinaza Uche as Jake, Kerry Warren as Annie/AntiChrist

I assume this is supposed to be a hip look at the apocalypse as experienced by its personified perpetrators: Annie aka The AntiChrist (Kerry Warren), Death (Nadine Malouf), Pestilence (Sathya Sridharan), Famine (Rosa Gilmore), and War (Patrick Cummings) and the single, sweet gay man, Jake (Chinaza Uche) -representing the best of us?- who rooms with Annie until the End of Days.

In short, Annie rather likes having been alive but is determined to do her duty. Death is all business while interestingly insisting she provides a service. Pestilence, who seems put-upon, is having what he thinks is a secret affair with surfer dude, War. Famine, resigned to being alone at the end, has become a voyeur.

Sathya Sridharan as Pestilence, Nadine Malouf as Death, Patrick Cummings as War

I have not a clue what this piece is trying to say; relax and go with it, we’ll all be one? Were it not for some moderately engaging turns- Patrick Cummings is something of a hoot, Chinaza Uche appears bright and innocent, Nadine Malouf offers ballast, the show would be a loud sleeper.

The production utilizes modest projections by Daniel Mueller and an AntiChrist voicei over which is so resonant, it’s literally unintelligible, as a result of which we miss the entire, thundering justification. Sound Design- Nick Moore. Understated Costumes by Amy Sutton cleverly manage to reflect each character.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Maggie Burke as Jane, David Deblinger as Nate

Throughline Artists presents
Summer Shorts- Festival of New American Short Plays
Series A:
The Helpers by Cisi Cram; Directed by Jessi D. Hill
After the Wedding by Neil LaBute; Directed by Maria Mileaf
This Is How It Ends by Rey Pamatmat; Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskander
59E59 Theatres    
59 East 59th Street
Through September 3, 2016