Short, but sweet


EATFest: Spring 2008 (Series C)


Produced by Emerging Artists Theatre (

Roy Arias Theatre Center, 300 W. 43rd St. (5th floor)
Equity showcase (closed
May 4, 2008)
Review by Byrne Harrison


The final evening of Emerging Artists' Spring EATFest features five very diverse short plays.  Without a doubt the strongest production of the evening, and along with Love, Me (Margaret) in Series B, one of the strongest two plays in the festival, is the touching and nontraditionally romantic Fast Light and Brilliant.  Set on a balcony outside a hotel where a conference is taking place, the play features Carrie Tillis as a woman just coming out of a divorce and Roberto Terrell Milner as the man she flirted with, then suddenly pulled away from.  Playwright Richard Martin Hirsch has written a charming play about things people want from relationships and the realities of what they get.  Deftly directed by Ian Streicher who allows the play to slowly unfold, it's the highlight of the evening and features marvelous acting by Tillis and Milner.


The evening begins with Stan Lachow's Antiques, a title that refers to the type of business run at one time by Gus (Matthew Lewis) and Mac (Jerry Matz), as well Gus and Mac themselves.  Best friends and former partners, Gus and Mac couldn't be more different.  Mac is a happy and vibrant old man.  Gus is not.  Weighed down by a life of regret and disappointment, he dreams of a future of "no wishing, no hoping, no missing anybody, no dreams, no thinking, nothing." At times humorous, at times touching, the play nonetheless seems a little predictable.  The acting, especially Lewis in Gus's darker and angrier moments, is excellent.


Undercurrents, the third play of the evening, is an odd, surreal play by perennial favorite Marc Castle, featuring Karen Stanion as Melinda, a young woman inexplicably found on a raft on the River of No Return with Huck Finn (Desmond Dutcher) and her mother (Lué McWilliams).  As Huck morphs into Tom Sawyer, then into some of Melinda's old boyfriends, and eventually Jesus (sort of) and her mother morphs into the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Melinda realizes that she's inside a dream.  As she tries to unravel the dream and figure out what it all means, she awakes to her real life and the tragedy that has forced her to retreat onto the raft in the first place.  Excellent acting all around, with special praise for McWilliams.  Amusing as the dream version of Melinda's mother and Molly Brown, she excels as Melinda's real life mother, full of concern and walking on eggshells.


Break, by J. Stephen Brantley, finds Nigel (Jason Alan Griffin), a British expatriate, visiting his country home only to find Scott (Hunter Gilmore), a drug addict who has been living there while Nigel was away.  Each is trying to be something he's not.  In Nigel's case, he's a working class bloke who hides behind upper-class manners.  In Scott's, his life on the streets, living from fix to fix, belies a completely different background.  The play is interesting, but despite being fairly short, seems to go on longer than it should.  It also seems uneven in tone, as though the comedic elements are forced on what is meant to be a more serious play.  Perhaps the fault lies with director Jonathan Warman, perhaps on the script itself.


The final play of the evening is Susan West Chamberlin's George and Bill Are Friends.  Imagine an evening of drinking by George H.W. Bush (Ron Bagden) and Bill Clinton (Joseph Callari), who have become friends while working together on their charitable foundation.  While the play tends to cover all the expected issues (Monica Lewinsky, the first President Bush's disappointment in his son's handling of Iraq), it does feature some interesting twists, including a well-done surprise ending.  Callari does a Saturday Night Live-worthy Clinton impersonation, which is not matched by Bagden.  His Bush, though capturing some of the former President's quiet and thoughtful demeanor, doesn't attempt to use his mannerisms or voice.  When compared to Callari's Clinton, it makes the play seem off-kilter.


With interesting plays, able directing, and good acting, Series C ends the Spring EATFest on a good note.


Box Score:


Writing: 2

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2008 by Byrne Harrison


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