Mission accomplished

Short Stories 3

Seven one-acts by various authors
The John Houseman Studio Theater
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Once each year NativeAliens Theatre Collective takes new writers out for a trial run in their Short Stories series. Works by new or unproduced authors are presented with the same care and talent given regular season productions, albeit with fewer production perks (the sets were mostly chairs and tables).

The first short play, Joe Godfrey's Flight, was a lighthearted take on gay men, effeminacy, and flight attendants. "I'm not only gay, I'm thrilled!" moans Glen (a very funny Ashok Sinha), who turns out to be even shallower than he's afraid he is. (Directed at breakneck speed by Mark Finley.)

Next was David DeWitt's more serious This Will Be the Death of Him, a play set in Guatemala, where a man searches for clues about the death of his brother. This sort of story is hard to carry off on a small scale, but the play benefited tremendously from strong performances by David Mason, Brian Quirk, and Terrell Tilford, who covered a lot of emotional ground in a short time. (Directed by Randy Lichtenwalner.)

The lightest and brightest of the evening was Rebekah Morgan's charming farce Fag Hag Anon. The group of women who make up the Hell's Kitchen Honeybees have no interest in changing their lives; rather, their goal is to help other women accept their place in the lives of their gay friends. The cast (Peter Herrick, Inga Hyatt, Katherine Proctor, and particularly Robyn Weiss and Jodi Lynn Smith) and featherweight direction (Craig Shelton) made the story a delight.

Brian Deming and Adam Moore wrote a piece for two women that operated on several levels. A job interview becomes a commentary on a relationship, with each woman speaking her thoughts Strange Interlude-style. The piece was smartly constructed, smoothly directed (by Scott Gilmore), and well-acted by Alice Bugman and Kerrie McKeon, who made the rather literary dialogue seem natural.

Also natural and believable was the relationship between the characters in David Zellnik's Sunday Paper. Judy (Pam Karlin) and Sam (David Weincek) each deal with the death of someone close, but they take it out on each other as they clash and talk at cross-purposes. The situation felt a bit forced for drama's sake (they're actually on vacation together), but thankfully there was no cathartic hug at the end. Instead, they retreated into reading their newspapers, with a respectful, warm understanding. (Directed by Rebecca Kendall.)

Back in farce mode was Dave DeChristopher's Hand Me Downs, where a mother must come to terms with the fact she has no daughter to hand her wedding dress down to - but why not have her son wear it? After all, he's marrying a man! Son resists, but he (Jeffrey J. Bateman) and his boyfriend (Paul Hertel) were no match for the hysterically deadpan performances of Vivian Meisner and Joseph Zarro as his parents. Snappy direction by David Leventhal.

The last play was David Folwell's Afraid of Heights, a first cousin to Edward Albee's Zoo Story. A man on a park bench is approached by a strange character who wears a hospital bracelet. (Of course, if he'd noticed the bracelet before it was pointed out to him, we'd have a much shorter play.) But Anthony (in a fine, florid performance by David Ari) is not crazy, he's exulting in his newly asymptomatic HIV status, and is glorying in life. Anthony then gets Jim (Charles Major) to acknowledge his own dissatisfactions and disappointments. Directed by Christine Jones, the play is thoughtful and well-meaning, though it felt somewhat incomplete.

So with a laugh here, a new perspective there, and generally fine performances all around, these seven short plays did what they set out to do: showcase writers, actors and directors, and give NativeAliens an even larger pool to draw from for future productions.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 David Mackler