nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 10, 2010
Brit Bits 7 is my kind of evening of short plays. There's a guiding premise, namely that the plays are "by, for, or about the British," and this provides unity to the program without stifling variety or forcing repetition. The word "short" is honored here: these are 10-minute plays that are actually 10 minutes long, or thereabouts; nothing really overstays its welcome, and so as at any good buffet if you don't like the current offering, just wait, because in just a moment something very different is coming up. And, importantly, the word "play" is honored here as well, for notwithstanding their brevity, each of these pieces is a complete drama, not just a vignette or a sketch.
I am going to move through the bill chronologically and (I hope) breezily, to give you a feel for Brit Bits without giving too much away:
- As Richard Manton-Hollis's The 3 Graces, Sarah Manton, Anna Frankl-Duval, and Ruthie Stephens greet us when we arrive in the theatre, standing stock still, apparently nude under a draper's cloth. Who are these lovely ladies and why are they standing so stock still? I won't spoil the evening's niftiest surprise by saying anything else.
- Small Favors, by Bronwen Denton-Davis, shifts the mood completely by giving us a father (Peter Cormican) and estranged son (Simon Pearl) who are reuniting briefly on the occasion of the former's imminent demise. Though the recriminations are a bit predictable, they are nevertheless convincing and compelling...and the father's final request of his son is a bit of a shocker.
- Icarus, by Sam Peter Jackson, is my personal favorite among the eight plays in Brit Bits 7. In it, Cailin McDonald plays a woman who wants affirmation from her friend/colleague, played by Frances Uku. Jackson's witty script explores just what that might mean with deft wordplay and sound exploration of what motivates us to be decent citizens of the world. (Note: the title, though not obvious, proves very apt indeed.)
- Camilla Maxwell's Another Day in Paradise resonated with me; its tale of two pals vacationing in Mexico reminded me all too vividly of the brilliantly sunny day I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and without using any sunscreen. Ouch! Anna Frankl-Duval and Adriana Llabres are funny as this bitter comedy's baked victims.
- Unmanned, written by Laura Stevens, is the longest play in Brit Bits 7. I loved its initial premise, but found it ultimately unsatisfying as it seemed to meander away from its core idea, which is that a departing British Prime Minister is packing up his desk as if he were a terminated underling in a big corporate office. When his assistant warns him not to take a stapler that she identifies as government property, a delightful ironic tone is set; but this dissipates as other, more conventional subjects are introduced in their conversation. Hannah Scott is great as the assistant; Lain Gray plays the departing PM.
- The Pilot finds Daniel Damiano as a man dealing with the illness of his father and Mia Moreland as a woman hoping to provide assistance. The ambiguity of their relationship fuels this dark comedy by Chris Thorpe, but the payoff didn't quite work for me.
- The penultimate piece, Brian Pracht's Bazelgate & Croxen, is the most traditionally "British" of the plays, making capital of the traditional old-boy stiff-upper-lip archetype that we've seen exploited by Monty Python and others. I hate to spoil the fun of this; suffice to say that the title characters are longtime associates who find their relationship strained—at least for a moment—by an indiscretion. Funny stuff, well performed by Adam Jonas Segaller and Martin Ewans.
- The Gesture, by Paula d'Alessandris, also reminded me of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Stuart Williams and Emma Gordon play a couple in the midst of a serious conversation. She is unsatisfied with their relationship and needs him to make a grand gesture. He's not sure what she means. Then he makes an attempt to please her...and I will say no more. Williams and Gordon have great chemistry in this over-the-top conclusion to a fun evening.
D'Alessandris, Stephanie Staes, and Camilla Maxwell are the directors of the eight pieces. As noted, the diversity of styles and themes is impressive, and the quick pace, especially in the nicely choreographed transitions between plays, gives the evening a fine, brisk pace.