Revolving door

Café Encounters

Six one-acts
Directed by Paula D'Alessandris
Stage Right Productions
American Theatre of Actors
314 West 54 St. (206-1515)
Equity showcase (closes Feb. 4)
Review by David Mackler

Any production with so many ingredients will necessarily be mixed (hence the box score 1s) but where Café Encounters (subtitled Six Short Plays in a Café) was well-done, it was very well-done.

Only one of the plays was excellent without reservation. Liver for Breakfast was well-written (by Lindsay Price), terrifically acted (by Dan Remmes, Susan Estes, and especially Kathy Searle) and well-directed. In just a few minutes an interesting situation was revealed, a crisis reached, and a resolution achieved - with smiles, chuckles, and laughs throughout. It was a treat to discover who these characters were and why they were there, and putting on makeup is rarely as funny as when Searle did it.

An outstanding performance by Wendy O'Reilly enlivened a piece that was enjoyable if not as strong, Mary Lathrop's Menstruating Waitress from Hell. The title is actually unfair, as O'Reilly's character had a firm grasp on reality as she shared various rules-of-the-reality-of-waitressing with the audience. Carrie Yeager was funny as the oblivious customer, and Steven Williams was grossly comical as a kitchen worker.

Cognito, by PS Lorio, also benefited from some snappy writing and lively performances by Maitely Weismann (who threw herself wholeheartedly into her role) and Marsha McGogney. It's a gimmicky situation - two women at separate tables, with one sharing far more than the other wants to hear - that leads to a final twist that's surprising yet predictable. Patrick Gabridge's Counting Rita was thin, but also enlivened by good playing - Jennifer Lorch wielded a clicker like a stun-gun, and Sherikay Perry was exceedingly good as her unsuspecting victim.

The lumps in the pudding, however, were the first two playlets, Gabridge's Christmas Breaks and Teresa Sullivan's Karmic Café. The charm of Melissa Quirk and Joshua Knapp was welcome but couldn't make Breaks worth presenting, and a fine physical comic performance by Trevor Jones didn't keep Karmic from doing much more than lying there, although Andrea Miskow provided good support.

The set (by Dan Martin) was efficient, with only minor changes made to suggest that each Café was different; costumes (uncredited) had some welcome touches of whimsy. The lighting (by Chuck Powers) was, well, unfortunate. There is no excuse for an under-illuminated stage left, especially when the first row of the audience was brightly bathed in light. It didn't make the bad plays worse, but the good ones deserved better.

Also with Eddie Goines, Chuck Powers, Tigh Walters.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2001 David Mackler