All around the town

New York Shorts

Ten short plays
Common Basis Theatre Company
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

The 10 10-minute plays that made up Common Basis Theatre's New York Shorts were alternately comic, touching, and crazed. Their quality was uneven, but the acting in general was exemplary, in some cases even better.

The best play was Kristin Smith's Under the Water (directed by Marcia Haufrecht) set in what was described as a "dumpy old man's bar in Manhattan." An irascible older man, 16 years on the wagon, and a disillusioned, unhappy younger woman sit and drink and talk. Who they are and what they're doing there was expertly constructed, with great amounts of information and character presented without a wasted word. It was complete and full in its 10 minutes, with sharp performances by Angela La Flamme and David Mandelbaum.

Mandelbaum also gave an expert comic performance in Marc Simon's The Gynecologist's Daughter (directed by Andrew Farrar) as the doctor who torments his daughter's boyfriend. He was intimidating, sly, and very funny as he ran the suitor (played by Simon) through a very odd gauntlet.

More fine performances were given in Abbie Knopper's Mammalogues (directed by Judith Bissell), wherein three people in very different situations talk to the audience as they wait in an ob-gyn's office (hopefully not the doctor with the daughter). Nathaniel Allbright's girlfriend has become pregnant against his wishes, Amy Coleman is facing a hysterectomy but wants more children, and Kristen Wendeboin is oh so tired of being pregnant but fearful of what's to come. Allbright's understated anger and Coleman's vulnerability were more than matched by Wendeboin's confusion, anxiety, terror and joy.

Andrew Farrar and Marcia Haufrecht were also terrific in Mark Borkowski's confused Shadows. Borkowski, who also directed, tried to include too much into his story of a passive/aggressive mother and her aimless son, but Haufrecht clearly showed the conflicts of her character, and Farrar was chilling as he described his pleasure robbing people at gunpoint.

Stanislas Kemper's Bath (directed by Rick Lohman) also aimed higher than it reached, but Freedome Bradley and Shannah Laumeister gave a large measure of emotion to their angry and confused characters. Lloyd Price's Dessert (directed by Lawrence Frank) was fluff that didn't really have a payoff, but Christopher David Heidt and Bethany Bowan were amusing as the sketch's caricatures; Serap Demira shone in Graciano Nunez's sketch Quarter Life Crisis (directed by Suzy Sulsona) with Michael Roche as an IT expert interested in more than computers; and there was even a musical, Linda Creamer's Warm Embraces from the Lady in the Red Hat (directed by Dunsten J. Cormack), a confusing bit but with a dynamic performance by Creamer. Then there was Ian Mackenzie Jeffers' Good-bye (directed by Haufrecht), with two men on a park bench. They're dressed the same, but do they know each other? Is one crazy, the other in denial? It played like a Beckett version of The Zoo Story, but to neither's benefit -- Andrew Farrar and Robert Haufrecht struggled purposefully but in vain. Stella Pulo ended the evening with a stand-up stint about how to live cheaply, and getting waxed in New York, Tokyo, and Budapest. She was a delight, even if it wasn't clear what she was doing there.

Throughout the evening the New York theme was a little strained - it needed more than plays "set" here and a tinny recording of "New York, New York" (lighting, costumes and set uncredited), but it was beautifully brought out by the way the scenes were changed -- Erin Mountford was very funny as a snobbish interior decorator, with Kylie Ferguson and Paul Hernandez as her recalcitrant assistants. Now that's the real New York.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler