Bite-sized theatre

EATFest: Fall 2006 (Series C)

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

The final evening of Emerging Artists Theatre’s Fall EATFest features an interesting mix of plays, both in terms of style and content.

In Forgetting to Remember by Greg Kalleres, Canice (Greg Homison) wakes up to find his young wife, Willa (Rebecca Hoodwin), and baby, Max (Michael Cuomo), have suddenly aged overnight. Of course, they haven’t really; he has simply forgotten the last twenty years. As Willa and Max try to fill him in on how his youthful hopes and dreams crumbled over the years, they realize that they’ve forgotten parts as well.

Kalleres’s play is meant as a wake-up call; pay attention to your life or you risk finding yourself at the end of it with no memories. While it is interesting, the production is somewhat rough. The actors seem to have timing issues; sections of the play that should be fast-paced seem choppy, as though they were slightly missing each other’s cues. Whether it can be blamed on opening night jitters or a lack of attention to detail on the part of director Ian Streicher, it distracts from what could have been a much stronger production.

Sick, by Bekah Brunstetter, follows two girls, one of whom had an unsafe sexual experience on her birthday, who go to a clinic for HIV tests. While they sit in the waiting room they remember some of their sexual encounters, good and bad, watch some really bad safe sex Public Service Announcements, and generally try to keep each other upbeat. The play is well-written, though somewhat predictable. Brunstetter has a gift for realistic dialogue, as well as a talent for parodying those horrible 1980s PSA’s, so even if you know where the play is going, it’s fun to watch her characters take it there. As the two young women, Enid Cortes and Jess Philips do a good job, though Cortes is occasionally hard to hear. Playing all the minor characters are Matthew A.J. Gregory, William Jackson Harper, Jeffrey Parrillo and Stacy Mayer. Mayer, in particular, is outstanding in the PSA’s.

Director Tzipora Kaplan makes some bold choices with Sick. Some of them work very nicely; having three actors play all the incidental characters, for instance. Others, such as the PSA’s interacting with the women, or having the women snap their fingers to start or stop each ‘memory/dream’ sequence, were more annoying than effective. However, EATFest has always been an opportunity to try new things and Kaplan deserves credit for trying something different.

The third play of the evening is the most interesting of the four. Dealing with the death of a young girl by the shore, Our Lady of the Sea, by Aoise Stratford, tells the story from the point of view of her grieving father (Scott Klavan), her boyfriend (Matt Stapleton) and the troubled young man who killed her (Tim Seib). Though they rarely interact, the three actors do a marvelous job of handing each other the narrative as they walk through the girl’s last moments and deal with their own emotions. With outstanding acting and deftly directed by Troy Miller, Stratford’s evocative play is extremely moving.

Deciding to end the evening with a bang, Series C closes with the amusing Fit for Love by Rich Orloff. At the tail end of what has turned into the worst first date ever, Charlie (Brian Louis Hoffman) and Julie (Allyson Morgan) find themselves in the emergency room in need of someone who can help them, to put it nicely, become unstuck. With the help of a wise-cracking doctor (Marc Castle) and his nurse (Rebecca Hoodwin), they manage to separate and get closer at the same time. Hoffman and Morgan are wonderful, and completely unselfconscious, as the half-naked lovers caught in their awkward embrace. Castle, as the seen-it-all doctor, is hilarious. Director Chris Maring keeps the play moving at a brisk pace and helps squeeze out every drop of humor that Orloff’s play contains.

Once again Emerging Artists Theatre’s Fall EATFest delivers three evenings of new and exciting theatre with a little something for everyone. If you enjoy your theatre bite-sized, this is not to be missed.

Box Score:

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

Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison

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