A theatrical smorgasbord
EATfest: Fall 2007 (Series B)
Emerging Artists Theatre
Producers Club, 358 W. 44th St., www.eatheatre.org for schedule)
Equity showcase (Wed., Sat. and Sun. through Nov. 4th)
Review by Byrne Harrison
Series B of Emerging Artists Theatre’s Fall EATfest features nudity, lies, infidelity, death, theft and an ingenious invention called a Pork Fork - a little something for everyone.
Unlike Series A, the comedies and dramas in this series are more evenly matched. One play, Clothes Encounters by David Almeida and Stephen J. Miller, even manages to combine the best of both, a powerful message with some really great laughs. Lorna (Amy Bizjak), a pretty, though overweight, young woman, meets the handsome Jason (Bryan Kaplan) at a nude beach, where she is most vulnerable. She can’t quite understand how he could be interested in someone like her, even though he finds her funny, sweet and beautiful. When she meets him for a second date, both clothed this time, she discovers he has a unique style (not to spoil the surprise of seeing his costume; suffice it to say that designer Amy Elizabeth Bravo did a fantastic job). Having barely overcome her self-consciousness at the beach, Lorna must now decide if she can stay with a man who is perfect in every other way, but will make her stand out when all she wants to do is remain invisible. Both Bizjak and Kaplan are marvelous in this well-written and thought-provoking play, deftly directed by Nick Micozzi.
Richard Ploetz’ Layout, the first pure drama of the evening, crackles with energy. As Megan (Laura Dillman) and Bart (Nick Ruggeri) work late into the evening on the layout of an ad campaign, they begin to discuss their relationships. There is a spark between the two and it’s clear that the evening could end with their crossing from colleagues to lovers, though they could risk destroying their relationships and the friendship that they share. Director Paul Adams deftly coaxes out the subtleties in Ploetz’ script, as Dillman and Ruggeri dance around a subject that both their characters want to, but can’t quite, discuss.
The final drama of the evening is Joe Byers’ Unembalmed. Set in a funeral home after the death of a young man on a dirt bike, the play shows a meeting between the grieving mother, Mrs. Dockery (Jacqueline Sydney), and the man, Jerry (Tim Seib), whose car killed her son as he darted out in front of it. The third character in Unembalmed is the Embalmer (Kamran Khan), who clinically describes to the audience the somewhat disturbing process of preserving a body, as the mother grieves and confronts Jerry. Seib does a good job playing Jerry, a man who was turning his life around when it was shattered by someone else’s reckless act that now haunts his nights. His Jerry is fatigued and angry, yet can still be compassionate to Mrs. Dockery’s pain. Sydney, as the grieving mother, is remarkable. She effortlessly cycles through the disjointed pain and anger that Mrs. Dockery feels. Carter Inskeep’s direction is very strong, and the use of a simple black piece of plywood for the coffin was a good touch by designer Brian Garber.
Tucked in around these dramatic plays are three comedies, Den of Iniquity, Lucky Day, Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?. The first, Den of Iniquity by Patrick Gabridge, is cute, but it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Gerald (William Reinking) isn’t getting what he needs at home, so he comes to Thalia’s (Jess Philips) place. She has everything he needs to scratch his itch – manual and electric typewriters, pens, pencils, every color and type of paper, everything he could possibly need to write the story that is in his heart. When his wife (Andrea Alton) shows up to put an end to his dirty little secret, she find herself seduced by his prose. Gabridge’s comparison of writing to an addiction like drugs or sex is amusing and brings to mind Ray Bradbury’s saying about writing not being “something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” What Bradbury was able to convey it in a sentence, however, Gabridge spins out, and despite good acting on the part of Reinking, Philips and Alton, the play seems a little too long and at times, especially when Gerald is being hectored by his wife, director Ian Streicher lets the pacing drag.
Mark Lambeck’s Lucky Day, directed by Jonathan Warman, takes a familiar idea, two jilted lovers who find solace with each other, and turns it on its head by making the lead characters a woman and a gay man who, as they eventually discover, were dumped by the same man. Wayne Henry, as the flamboyant, show tune singing Sean, gets most of the laughs in Lucky Day, but Karen Stanion holds her own as the pajama-clad Whitney, though it’s hard to believe her Whitney would ever contemplate suicide, an important plot point.
The final comedy of the evening is Carol Mullen’s Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?, smoothly directed by Ned Thorne. In it, a hapless inventor, Adam (Desmond Dutcher), is waiting for James (Jeff Auer), a mafia hit man who is going to kill him because he pay off the loan he took to work on his inventions, including the Pork Fork and a glow-in-the-dark toothpaste (that’s ever so slightly radioactive). When James arrives he methodically prepares to kill Adam, who, in a bid to save his life, tries to distract James with talk of his life, loves and inventions. Despite himself, James becomes interested and as they talk, each realizes that he’s found the man of his dreams. What’s a hit man to do? Dutcher is very funny as the scattered and understandably agitated inventor. His Adam is an energetic counterpoint to Auer’s no-nonsense hit man. Played with a deadpan style that would make Tommy Lee Jones proud, Auer does an excellent job as a consummate professional blindsided by love.
Featuring fun comedies and some thought-provoking dramas, EATfest Series B strikes a nice balance.
Copyright 2007 by Byrne Harrison
Return to Volume Thirteen, Number Ten Index
Return to Volume Thirteen Index
Return to Home Page