Summer is here, and it's time for up-and-coming theatre companies to produce evenings of frothy entertainments that feature great numbers of their members. That's what the talented Waterfront Ensemble did with its production entitled Summer Shorts '98. What was different about this production was that while there were a few pieces that qualify as frothy, there were many others that qualify as serious and thought-provoking. Nine plays made up Summer Shorts '98, and they are an eclectic lot. Only two (Taking Off, by Terri Campion, directed by Leecia Manning; and Black Magic Woman, written and directed by Carl Gonzalez), can be called straight-out comedies. Four are monologues (The Drawing Room Guard's Big Lie and Dating In The Planetarium, by Luigi Jannuzzi; As If, by Kerri Kochanski - all directed by Elizabeth Rothan - and Medea SingsThe Blues, written and directed by Jason Grote). One is an adaptation (He Meant, She Meant, written and directed by Jim Patrick), one a romantic comedy (Bird Dog, by Pete Emst, directed by Wendy Overly), and one a drama (A Place In The Mind, by Suzanne Marshall, directed by Wendy Overly and Bruce Barton). The most successful pieces were The Drawing Room Guard's Big Lie, A Place In The Mind, and Black Magic Woman.
The Drawing Room Guard's Big Lie is the touching and humorous story of an almost middle-aged painter who works as a museum guard and is struggling with the notion that he might not have enough talent to truly succeed at his art. A Place In The Mind is the very powerful study of Matt and Elly, who have moved from the country to the city so Ely can get psychiatric help. When Matt discovers that Elly has made a friend in Richie, a much younger psychiatric patient, he is forced to face the fact that Elly will probably never be happy anywhere, city or country, and will probably never be cured. Black Magic Woman is the darkly humorous story of Edna, hospitalized with a broken leg after her husband ran over her, who is forced to share a room with Wanda, the meanest terminally ill patient the world has ever known.
The production by the Waterfront Ensemble was simple and straightforward.. Most of the performances were top-notch. Notable was Vincent Wares as the barely hopeful museum guard, Leecia Manning as the injured Edna, Joseph Franchini as her crazed nurse, Marcia Finn as the ever-dating Josephine in Dating In The Planetarium, and especially Geoffrey Molloy as the disturbed Richie. The only downside to the evening was that at two-and-a-half hours, it was a bit long. Some time could have been made up in crisper direction, for a number of the plays lacked the zip that a good one-act needs to make its point. That said, Summer Shorts '98 was a successful evening, and the Waterfront Ensemble should be pleased.
(Also featuring: Tom Harkins, Jill Macy, Tim Barrett, Wendy Overly, Jennifer Lewis, Trish Matthews, Eli Ganias, Lisa Rudin, Brian T. Friedman, and Alice Connorton.)
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Copyright 1998 John Attanas