|L-R: Kate Buddeke and Adam Landon in THE LIVING ROOM, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2018. Photo be Carol Rosegg.|
For the past twelve years, Thoroughline Artists has staged an annual program of Summer Shorts: A Festival of New American Short Plays at 59E59 Theatres. Each year’s program generally consisted of six short plays by both established and emerging playwrights, divided into two series of three one-act plays each. And each year’s program generally proved to be extremely entertaining.
This year’s program again consists of six one-act plays, three in Series A and three in Series B. The plays in Series A are The Living Room by Robert O’Hara; Kenny’s Tavern by Abby Rosebrock; and Grounded by Chris Bohjalian. The three in Series B are Sparring Partner by Neil LaBute; Ibis by Eric Lane; and The Plot by Claire Zajdel.
I have not yet seen Series B which won’t open officially until August 5 but I have just seen Series A and I must say I was rather disappointed.
For starters, I thought that The Living Room jumped the shark and was largely incomprehensible. It has been presented as a satire about Frank (Adam Landon) and Judy (Kate Buddeke), white people in a living room who simply do what white people do but who come to question the very nature of their reality – in the course of which they break down the fourth wall, engage in Brechtian absurdities, endow the playwright (or director) of the play in which they just happen to find themselves with God-like attributes, and blur the distinction between actors and audience - and all with gratuitous racial overtones. I found the entire play to be a mash-up of Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage…,” Becket’s Waiting for Godot, The Truman Show, and Westworld. I’m really not certain what the playwright’s intentions were but I didn’t find the work interesting enough to try even harder to find out.
|L-R: Francesca Fernandez MaKenzie and Stephen Guarino in KENNY'S TAVERN, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2018. Photo be Carol Rosegg.|
Unlike The Living Room, both Kenny’s Tavern and Grounded were comprehensible but had the depth of #MeToo hashtag messages. Both plays again explored the sad truth that women have frequently been sexually exploited by mentors, married men, and men old enough to be their fathers, but neither play brought any new insights to the issue. In Kenny’s Tavern, the exploited woman is a school teacher, Laura (Francesca Fernandez McKenzie), who would readily have slept with her married man exploiter, Ryan (Stephen Guarino) if he’d only been willing and who analogizes her relationship with Ryan to that of Monica Lewinsky with Bill Clinton. And in Grounded the exploited woman, an airline stewardess, is Emily (Grace Experience) who was the victim of years of statutory rape, the traumatic aftereffects of which don’t seem to have left her with anything worse than a surmountable fear of flying over the ocean.
|L-R: K.K. Glick and Grace Experience in GROUNDED, part of SUMMER SHORTS 2018. Photo by Carol Rosegg.|
The actors in all three plays do as effective a job as might be expected in their respective roles, given the material they have to work with. I only wish that material were better.