Emerging Artists Theatre’s Fall EATFest continues with an evening featuring five short plays: Customer Disservice by Gregg Pasternack; Triple Play by Marc Castle; Help Thyself by Greg Kalleres; Neverland by Kim Kelly; and Can’t You See We’re Acting by Carl L. Williams. Despite an earnest attempt, this is the least satisfying of the three series.
The evening does have its moments. Help Thyself, a clever send up of the self-help genre and the interesting personalities behind it, is very amusing. Featuring Glory Gallo as self-assured, self-involved, and slightly insane self-help author Nora Halestrom, and Matt Boethin as the insecure young man who comes to her for help, the play gets funnier as Nora gets crazier and more manipulative. Director Derek Jamison keeps the humor building, the psychobabble flying, and the actors always just this side of over-the-top. The result is the high point of the evening.
Preceding Help Thyself is the much darker Triple Play. Young couple Lynda (Erin Hadley) and David (Erik Baker) meet Lynda’s best friend Allie (Jeannie Dalton), who at one point was David’s lover. Allie believes Lynda doesn’t know. Lynda believes Allie doesn’t remember David. David, of course, kind of enjoys the attention. Naturally, over the course of the evening, infidelity, betrayal, and jealousy seep out as the triangle falls apart and relationships are destroyed. The cast is engaging, especially Hadley and Dalton who have a good rapport. Director Carter Inskeep does his best to keep the show interesting, but in the end, the play doesn’t cover much new ground.
Also disappointing was Neverland, the third play of the evening. While on a Disneyworld vacation that is a desperate attempt to reconnect with his surly teenaged daughter (Helen Green), divorced father Harry (Michael Batelli) has an encounter with Tinkerbell (Shannon Marie Kerr); not an actor in a costume, but the honest-to-goodness fairy. Despite the clever concept, Neverland never really lives up to its potential. Kerr certainly gives it her best shot with her mercurial Tink, but there is never much chemistry between her and Batelli. In addition, director Rebecca Nyahay allows the timing of the scene to lag and the blocking to become awkward.
Can’t You See We’re Acting is a companion piece to Williams’s Must the Show Go On which appears in Series A. Rather than addressing everything that can go wrong on stage, this play shows what happens when two earnest young actors (Peter Hawk Byrne and Jennifer Pawlitschek) face the three rudest audience members in Manhattan (Peter Levine, Hershey Miller and Jacqueline Sydney). The piece, while amusing, is really a one-joke play. And though the actors and director Glenn Schudel do an outstanding job, the joke goes on a little too long.
Customer Disservice could have been much stronger. Pasternack’s dialogue was humorous. The situation, a man stuck in customer service purgatory, is something most people can relate to. The actors, William Reinking as the hapless Tom and Amol Tripathi as the gleefully incompetent Harry, are terrific. What torpedoes this production is the decision to break the play into four parts and have them serve as entr’actes between the other plays. It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. However, in execution, it kept any tension from building. Tom’s frustration at Harry’s bungling should have grown bit by bit, carrying the audience with it, until it exploded at Harry’s final indignity. Instead, Reinking had to start from scratch at the beginning of each scene. All in all, the play was less a humorous bridge between plays than it was an ongoing distraction.
Though not as strong as the other two series in Fall EATFest 2006, Series B features some good acting, vibrant writing, and a couple of really fun plays.
Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison
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