Short and sweet

EATFest: Fall 2006 (Series A)

Emerging Artists Theatre (
Theatre 5
311 W. 43rd St. (5th floor)
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Byrne Harrison

Emerging Artists Theatre begins its Fall EATFest with four wonderful and well done short plays that are not to be missed.

Room at the Inn by Barbara Lindsay imagines two weary travelers returning to their hometown; one a devoted husband, the other, a woman, impregnated by God, who is carrying the future messiah.  Sadly for them, their names aren’t Mary and Joseph; they are Barry (Daniel Carlton) and Lola (Karen Stanion).  And this isn’t a manger in Bethlehem; it’s a cheap motel.  Not surprisingly, their friend, Andy (Damon Boggess), doesn’t believe them, but despite it all, Barry and Lola carry on.

While there is much about the play that is comic, director Roberto Cambeiro allows its power to shine brightest in the serious moments: Andy’s confrontation of Barry and Lola, and Barry’s crisis of faith.  And while the story is well written, it’s the actors who really make this production excellent.  Lola is vulgar and sassy, but Stanion gives her a subtle vulnerability as well.  Barry is a good man who is trying his best to believe.  Carlton imbues him with such trust and good nature, that when he finally snaps, it’s a wonder to see.  Andy reacts like any rational modern man faced with the same scenario.  Boggess does a very good job showing Andy’s anger at Lola and his bemusement at Barry’s indifference.

Karen Schiff’s sweet play, Recoil, follows.  A lonely widow, Miriam (Blanche Cholet), wants to purchase a new mattress.  Perhaps.  Though he tries his best, Rich (Ron Bopst), the mattress salesman, doesn’t have much luck.  That is, until he figures out that the problem isn’t her current mattress; it’s the fact that her husband is no longer in it.

The acting is superb.  Cholet shows all of Miriam’s vulnerability without allowing her to become one note.  Though she is grieving, Miriam is a remarkably strong person.  Bopst is genuinely charming as the nervous and flustered Rich.  The two actors share a marvelous chemistry which, aided by director Jonathan Warman’s light touch, makes this play a delight.

The third play is Allan Baker’s devastating Five Minutes.  The play follows the last few moments of a group of office workers in the World Trade Center.  Audience members who are sensitive to portrayals of that day will have a hard time with this.  With the largest cast of the evening, and told in three vignettes, it is a beautiful and life-affirming piece that shouldn’t be avoided just because of the subject.  The ensemble cast features Sandra Mills Scott and Gameela Wright as coworkers who find comfort in their family and faith, Scott Katzman and Jerry Marsini who face death by remembering the things that made life worth living, and Hunter Gilmore and Brian Louis Hoffman as lovers who say goodbye by returning to the moment they met.  The acting is excellent.  Director Kevin Brofsky keeps the play intense, but never lets the specter of death overshadow the play’s celebration of life.

The final play of the evening is Carl L. Williams’s amusing Must the Show Go On.  A pleasant combination of The Actor’s Nightmare and Noises Off, it ends the evening on a light note and provides much needed laughs after the seriousness of Five Minutes.  Featuring an actor with a cold (Lee Kaplan), one who doesn’t know his lines (Wayne Henry), a leading lady with no zipper on her dress (Tracee Chimo), and a drunk in the tech booth, even the most tenacious leading man (Paul Adams) will eventually give up.  This outrageous farce has one objective: make the audience laugh.  And it does it admirably.  The actors are hammy and hilarious.  Director Deb Guston pulls out all the stops and keeps the laughs coming until the very end.

With well-written plays, a marvelous cast, and superb directing, Fall EATFest Series A demonstrates the very best of Emerging Artists Theatre.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison