Series C, the third and final weekend of the 42nd Street WorkShop's inaugural one-act-play festival, comprised three diverse works, each with its own charm.
The evening commenced with actress Laurie Graff's first play,Charlie & Flo. Set in the Bronx in 1965, it concerns a high-school senior, Charlie, and his love-hate relationship with his widowed mother, Flo. As Charlie is deciding whether to stay home and attend City College or go away to a more prestigious school, his mother begins dating Charlie's shop teacher. The close bond between mother and son-forged partly by the death of Charlie's father four years earlier-begins to unravel as Charlie resents his mother's relationship with Jerry and tries to assert his independence. Charlie & Flo is a simple story dealing with familiar themes (the generation gap, loss of a loved one), but the familiarity was one of the play's endearing qualities-these are situations that many people can relate to. The playwright's tender treatment of her subject and the actors' earnest performances were also assets. Director Charles E. Gerber cast the play well; his only notable flaw in staging was the partial pantomiming of certain actions (such as the lighting of a cigarette and a slap across the face), which was distracting in an otherwise realistic play. (Featuring Celeste Mancinelli, Darien Scott Shulman, and Bart Tangredi)
In contrast to the old-fashioned drama of Charlie & Flo, the play that followed it-Veronique JeanMarie's The Discussion-would definitely be classified "high concept." Three young men in tuxedos recited a slew of bad-boyfriend clichés: What do you mean I'm not sensitive?, I need my space, etc., etc. Sometimes the men spoke in unison; other times they had individual lines; they even broke into a song and dance. It was like George Costanza in three-part harmony. The Discussion lasted all of five minutes, too short to either annoy or impress but long enough to make its satiric point. (Featuring Greg Skura, James Shanley, and Stephen Girasuolo.)
After intermission came In Paris, Fred Pezzulli's adaptation of a short story by Ivan Bunin. The play was directed by Aleksey Burago, Pezzulli's collaborator on On the Eve, another adaptation from Russian literature, which was produced by the 42nd Street WorkShop last year. In Paris was a highly stylized rendering of a romance between two Russian expatriates in Paris in the 1930s. The alluring Snezhana Chernova and appropriately smitten Flavio Romeo made sympathetic lovers. Kurt Elftmann and Andrea Clark Libin mugged ably in a variety of character roles, although-in the interests of pacing-the play could have done without so many of their restaurant-customer vignettes. European music, short and occasionally wordless scenes, as well as other artistic touches gave the production a dreamy but foreboding ambience that paralleled the storyline.
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Copyright 1999 Adrienne Onofri