Sunday, August 6, 2017

SUMMER SHORTS 2017 - SERIES B at 59E59 Theaters

59E59 Theaters’ Summer Shorts 2017 Festival of New American Short Plays is staged in two segments: Series A, which includes Playing God by Alan Zweibel, Jack by Melissa Ross, and Acolyte by Graham Moore (see our last review) and Series B, which Includes Break Point by Neil LaBute, A Woman by Chris Craigin-Day, and Wedding Bash by Lindsey Kraft and Andrew Leeds (which we have just had the pleasure of seeing in its opening performance. 

L-R: Andy Powers, Donovan Mitchell, Rachel Napoleon, and Georgia Ximenes Lifsher in WEDDING BASH, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2017 - SERIES B.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
To my mind, Wedding Bash was far and away the best of the three works.  The playwrights have done a brilliant job in their presentation of an unusual subject – destination weddings and how differently they may be perceived by participants and guests – and the entire cast is wonderful in portraying all four of the very entertaining characters they have created.  Lonny (Donovan Mitchell) and Dana (Rachel Napoleon) have returned from their destination wedding in Sedona (a place they selected because of its fabulous red rocks and because it was far cheaper for them to hold their wedding there than, say, in Los Angeles).  Alan (Andy Powers) and Edi (Georgia Ximenes Lifsher), two of their wedding guests, are now visiting them in their home in Sherman Oaks and, as one might expect, talk turns to their memories of the wedding.

To Lonny and Dana it was fabulous – what with the Sedona backdrop (and economy) of it all.  But to Alan and Edi, not so much.  From their point of view, Lonny and Dana were simply selfish, imposing big costs on their guest for travel and hotel accommodation just so that they might save some money themselves.


L-R: John Garrett Greer and Keilyn Durrel Jones in BREAK POINT, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2017 - SERIES B.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Neil LaBute has been participated in 59E59 Theaters’ Summer Shorts programs for nine years so it comes as no surprise that he has an entry in this one.  Break Point is a two hander in which Oliver (John Garrett Greer), a world-class tennis player, attempts to bribe Stan (Keilyn Durrel Jones), another world class player albeit one not quite in Oliver’s class, to throw a game.  I am generally a fan of LaBute’s but I was a little disappointed in this play.  On the one hand, I thought it was somewhat overwritten with Oliver and Stan excessively circling around the moral issue confronting them, while on the other hand, I thought that they never truly focuses sharply enough on the real issue.  But both Greer and Jones deserve credit for two fine performances.


L-R: Jennifer Ikeda and Mark Boyett in A WOMAN, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2017 - SERIES B.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
In A Woman, Kim (Jennifer Ikeda) is a strong-willed ardent Christian feminist who, for ten years, has been trying to convince her Presbyterian Church to choose a woman as an elder, in contravention of the church’s rules which allow women to be deaconesses but not elders.  Now her old friend, Cliff (Mark Boyett) has just been name pastor of her church and she is trying to convince him to do what his predecessors would not.

Despite excellent performances by both Ikeda and Boyett, I found A Woman to be the least satisfying of the three plays on the program.  From my perspective, it was just another glib spouting of identity politics – only this time applied to the church rather than to national government.  It is one thing to argue that a woman ought not be denied the Presidency of the United States or the position of elder in the Presbyterian Church simply because she is a woman and I would certainly agree with that  But it is quite another to argue (as Hillary Clinton did) that a woman should be elected President simply because she is a woman (or that she should be named an elder of the Presbyterian Church for no reason other than that she is a woman as Kim proclaims)

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