Shortened Attention Span Festival
nytheatre.com review by Various Reviewers
June 5, 2008
Week 4 (Reviewed by Martin Denton, June 26, 2008)
As its title aptly suggests, this festival of short plays moves briskly and brightly, offering up (in its final week, anyway) six items different enough from one another in subject, style, and tone that if at any moment you don't really care for what you're watching, then soon enough you're bound to see something you'll enjoy. Kudos to producers Carlo Riveccio and Christy Benanti for keeping the evening sweetly abbreviated (less than 90 minutes in total) and making between-play transitions (some of which featured a significant amount of set-changing) simple and speedy.
A couple of the pieces on this bill really struck me as exemplars of the harder-than-people-think-to-do one-act form. Mim Granahan's Episode is the triumh of the evening, a taut and absorbing thriller about a woman who has essentially been imprisoned in a mental hospital for reasons she cannot fathom. When her husband is finally allowed in to see her—and then, later, a doctor—things start to become clear. Granahan herself plays the woman and her emotional journey during the brief drama is riveting to witness, from anger and confusion to a more accepting quest for understanding and truth. Her co-stars in the piece also do fine work, with Aaron William Oetting loving and calm as the husband and Joseph Hamel at once threatening and reassuring as the doctor. Granahan also co-directed with Megan Cooper. This is a piece that absolutely deserves to be seen again.
Theft, written and directed by Jerrod Bogard, seems to me to be loaded with potential; with a bit of restructuring, the author should have a real treasure on his hands. It begins in a police station, where a psychiatrist comes to report a mugging attack. The sergeant on duty, played with grand New York attitude by Bridget Handler, takes down the details. And then, she shows him his file. And I can't tell you anything else, because Bogard's brilliant idea in this play is what's in the file, and I won't spoil it. There's some work that Bogard needs to do to clarify his concept, and it would probably be better if the prologue with the desk sergeant happened more quickly. But the underlying idea of Theft is wonderfully smart, and I hope the playwright will hone this play and sharpen it into the excellent work it has the potential to become.
Two other pieces on the bill are enjoyable but might better be classified as comedy sketches than one-act plays. Jason S. Grossman's 3 Days in May charts the quick history of a relationship that reaches its turning point when Carol and William move in together. Grossman's writing is very funny and David Bodenschatz's performance as the hangdog and terminally immature William is endearing and skillful. But I think that Grossman has stacked the deck too much in Carol's favor (she is pretty much always right, while William is consistently at fault), which takes away from the underlying reality of the tale. Young playwright Jon Ospa's Working Title is a fun bit of meta-theatre in which we watch young screenwriter Tom toil on a project in which James Cain-style noir meets Jurassic Park. If the general premise of a writer's give-and-take with his characters has been seen before, Ospa finds a way to make the thing lively and somewhat original with some of the choices he makes in this script.
I began this review by saying that audience members might not enjoy everything on the bill, and for me the other two offering of this series fall into that category. Mating the Black Widow (there's someone for everyone), written by Greg LoProto and directed by Bradley Diuguid, is a dark comedy with an oddball premise that I just didn't connect with; the twist the author provides at the end in particular made very little sense to me. Jenny Karlsen gives an unfortunately unpleasant performance as a young woman with an unusual dating strategy; Ed Walsh is much more likable as her partner-in-crime. Capping this review, though starting off the evening, Bob Ost's Attention Must Be Paid gives us Tammy Tunyavongs as an actress who is tired of auditioning without ever getting a job. This monologue covers a lot of ground, much of it familiar; I have to admit that I found the presumably satirical jabs at off-off-Broadway rather tired and unnecessary.
But chacun a son gout, as they say: there's a treat in this theatre festival for every taste, as our reviewers (see below) have discovered throughout its four-week run.
Week 3 (Reviewed by Richard Hinojosa, June 19, 2008)
My attention span can be a little short at times so this festival of ten minute plays is just perfect for me. This is a fun festival and I recommend you check it out even though this year's offerings, just like last year's, are a mixed bag of entertainment.
The first play, The Shocker Show, is about an aspiring musician who is giddy beyond words about going to see the Joe Shocker concert. Her visiting neighbor is a sourpuss who pours his negativity all over her excitement. Her friend comes over and reveals that she has backstage passes and they jump and scream like there's a clearance sale at the shoe store. In the end, she is validated and Mr. Sour Puss is put in his place. This is a fun play, mostly because the actresses, Tracey Willet and Vanessa Marco, are so enthusiastic and both really nail the rocker chick attitude. Steven Edwards is also good in his roles, but the story here is not particularly interesting. Playwright Emily Paul does a decent job with her dialogue but the validation at the end is not very believable and therefore not very compelling.
The next piece, Lox Atop the Lincoln Tunnel, is about letting go. A young man has breakfast with his mother on what seems to be a regular basis. They chat about his new boyfriend and about his father, her ex-husband, and the new young girl he's dating. Playwright Tom Bruett crafts some nice dialogue and his story has an interesting reveal that I won't give away here, but the acting misses the mark. Gloria Rosen and Andrew Taliano are not convincing in their roles and they have very little chemistry on stage.
Because You Should is by far the best show of the night. It is enormously entertaining and very well-written and acted. Playwright Concetta Rose Rella plays Isabella, a very pregnant young woman, who is living with her knucklehead boyfriend, Joey, when her two nosey, pushy sisters Mona and Lisa come over to help her get things ready for the baby. They are not fans of Joey and he can't stand the sight of them. Joey and his friend Matt are your typical high-fiving, where's-my-dinner-woman kinda guys. Joey can't seem to get it into his head that he needs to change his ways to help Isabella with the baby, but Isabella is smart and she knows how to work it. This play is laugh-out-loud funny and, in the end, utterly adorable. Rella's characters are people you know and all are played extremely well by her cast, Daniela Genoble, Maria Baratta, Chris DePierro, and Craig Thomas Rivela.
Next is The Music Room by Elizabeth Bove. This play is quite interesting. A woman, played convincingly by Laurie Muir, is checking out a potential apartment in Manhattan for herself and her husband. The realtor is an arrogant sort of guy played very well by Michael Siktberg. They chat a little about her past and we discover that she was once a musician with lots of promise but gave it up to raise a family, so the realtor shows her the music room and boasts that a composer once lived there. Bove gives us a great turnaround at the end and the dialogue and acting are very good. However, there is no explanation for the motives of the events in the final scene so it leaves you feeling a little lost.
The final play, Ryder's Block, is about two brothers trying to write the next great screenplay but they can't seem to get past their quirks and differences. Playwright Alan Gordon gives us two slightly over-the-top nerdy writers who both seem to suffer from OCD, though it manifests in them in different ways. Gordon's dialogue is subtle and often funny and the actors, Ivan Goris and Kristian Kordula, completely sink themselves into their roles and that pays off for them because they get a lot of laughs. Still, plays about writer's block are fairly clich and Gordon offers us nothing particularly new in this show.
Once again this festival has proven to be entertaining and well worth a look. There are gems to be found in this ten minute format though you may have to dig for them.
Week 2 (Reviewed by Anthony C.E. Nelson, June 12, 2008)
I've caught one of Shortened Attention Span's one-act festival's before, and it adhered to what I tend to expect from off-off one act festivals—flashes of brilliance, a number of scripts early in development, and actors of varying skill levels. That being said, the producers keep the action moving and always manage to field a diverse and interesting talent pool.
The first piece, You'll Let Me Know by Rosemarie Hester, starts off as a standard "normal person on public transportation inexplicably lets crazy person sit next to them and ramble endlessly" piece, but then it takes an abrupt about-face into family drama. A young man brings his sister a message from their long-lost father, and the two struggle with whether or not to forgive Dad's long absence from their lives. Claire Siebers does a nice job as the sister, but the play isn't quite fully formed yet.
James Fauvell's Cranes has the same type of meet-cute launching point, as the recently bereaved Portia wanders into a museum to look at a piece of her painter mother's work, and finds some comfort talking to the janitor, Max. The script is sweet, but slight, and I didn't find much of it particularly memorable.
More Time has a more mature and poised cast, and I appreciated the play's treatment of a woman's struggle to choose between the good man and the exciting man. The play centers around Addie, who runs a business reading tarot cards over the phone. She is relaxing in bed with her new man Jim, when she gets a disturbing phone call from former lover and married man William. Unsure of what to do, she seeks advice from the ghost of her grandmother. The play doesn't really resolve itself, and I was more interested in the loving but pained back-and-forth between Tina Stafford as Addie and Andy Paterson as Jim than I was in the supernatural relationship counseling, but author Aliza Einhorn has a nice start here.
Chemistry tells the story of Tina and Rob's first date, and Rob's desperate search for the elusive word that is the play's title. Rob and Tina are lab partners, but they haven't talked much before agreeing to go out on this date. Playwright Jonathan Emont has given Rob some of the evening's best lines as he tries to grab any speck of information the reticent Tina gives up and turn it into common ground, or at least pry up some information for discussion. "You're a vegan?" he asks, after she reveals she can't eat anything at the restaurant. "I guess that means you're political, or something? You like Obama, or Kucinich...or something?" Trying to keep the conversation going, Rob offers, "You have really pretty hair. I don't know if that's a solid foundation for a relationship or not..." The piece offers plenty of zingers like this, but peters out a bit when Emont elects to turn Tina into more of a male fantasy than an actual character.
As often happens in these one-act festivals, a shining diamond emerges towards the end of the evening with Micah Bucey and Nicholas Williams's The Gay Agenda, which is a hilarious parody of a Disney movie musical. The conceit is that Bucey and Williams are struggling songwriters who have "sold out" by agreeing to write a movie musical for Disney about a young gay man seducing a confused lad in a bar. In truth, the framing device is hardly necessary as Bucey and Williams's music and performances are so compelling and hilarious I would happily watch them under any circumstances. These are two crackerjack performers who have written some incredible songs, and I look forward to anything they do in the future.
Week 1 (Reviewed by Julie Congress, June 5, 2008)
The first week of the month-long 2nd Annual Shortened Attention Span Festival features five new short plays. With a wide variety of fare, there certainly are some great moments, though the levels of professionalism and taste are very hit-or-miss.
First up is the FUCT Comedy Troupe which promises "sketch comedy so funny, it hurts." Graham Skipper enters as a very dynamic, very stereotypical evangelical Baptist preacher full of racist rhetoric. After prompting everyone in the audience to join hands and join him in a few rounds of "Amen" and "Praise Jesus," Skipper proceeds to bash every minority group extensively in a hate-filled parody. Next comes Bobo, "the saddest clown" (played by an uncredited member of the group) who tells five "jokes" about sad clowns and bashes himself in the face with cream pies and spritzes himself with seltzer water.
The next piece is I Love You, Billy Trame. Two likeable, twentysomething guys named Matt and Nick (played by Matt James and Nick Vitucci) sit around in their pajamas, eating breakfast and make idle chitchat. Then they get the idea to write a play in which two guys sit around eating breakfast and talking. In a very funny (although too slowly paced) montage, we see our two buddies agonizing to write down the scene we've just witnessed. This play, written by Matthew Pepitone, has a lot of potential and if Ronald di'Starlin's direction were tighter it could be quite a hoot.
In Warren Schultz's Brooklyn Does Not Want You, Jane, a very angry woman, meets her ex, Roger, in a bar. As Roger points out, they have not seen one another since right before 9/11. Jane responds that he has no right to call it that, because he wasn't there. They continue to messily sort through their past, as Roger tries to win back his livid former love.
And then God enters. In God Walks Into a Bar or: What is This, Some Kind of Joke? a man shares a pint with The Deity himself. Jerry (the man) wants answers. God wants jokes. So they work out an exchange. Jerry tells a joke and then gets to ask God a question, which God responds to in parable form. Playwright Jerry Lazar plays Jerry, while Victor Venning plays a very human looking and acting God. D. Hands directed.
As God exits, Death enters, juggling three clocks as a young woman holds up a sign that says "a metaphor." This marks the beginning of the final item of the evening, which is pointless. The eight performers of pointless offer 20 vignettes written by Paul Guyet, with frequent, often very humorous, announcements reminding the audience that these sketches are all, well, pointless. In one, a man stands alone onstage. Another enters, and asks him what he's waiting for. He replies, "Godot." In another skit, a banana is murdered during a party. In a third, Edgar Allan Poe is caught dancing to "Too Sexy" and says he's having a "laudanum freak-out." Some of the vignettes are very funny and others just very vulgar, but they are all performed by a very strong, energetic ensemble.