Emerging Artists Theatre ends their Fall 2007 EATfest on a strong note with Series C which features one of the most poignant plays of the entire production, Peter Levine’s The Gipper. Set in an apartment in New York, The Gipper tells the story of Susan (Vivian Meisner) and Max (Peter Treitler), an older couple whose routine is broken by Susan’s announcement that she has cancer. While Susan simply wants to keep living her life as normal for as long as possible, Max wants a miracle, or at least a defining moment. This tender and touching piece is marvelously directed by Deb Guston. Both Meisner and Treitler are excellent in their roles.
The other highlight of the evening is Chris Widney’s Pithy, Enticing Appellation. Widney’s comedy about a pompous headmaster (Peter Waldren) and the nouveau riche parents (Jason Alan Griffin and Lué McWilliams) who are trying to get their slacker son (Jason Hare) into an “inexplicably British sounding prep school” has a gimmick. All of the characters speak in a cross between subtext and stage direction. The result is remarkably funny. High marks go to Waldren as the Headmaster; Hare, who has teenage poseur surliness down to a science; and though only briefly onstage, Emily Mitchell as the Receptionist.
The other comedy that works well is The Adventures of . . . by EAT mainstay Kathleen Warnock. Once again Warnock has picked a fertile subject: the legion of superhero fans who’ve always secretly wondered what Superman and Jimmy Olsen or Batman and Robin might have been up to when no one was around. In this story, Maggie (Jennifer Joy Pawlitschek) tells of her childhood fascination with the adventures of the dashing Prince Cal (Nick Lazzaro) and his mentor, the rugged Commander Zoron (Will Clark). Never quite understanding why she was so intrigued by Cal and Zoron, at least until she role plays with her best friend, Maggie eventually discovers that she has much more in common with them than she realized. While Pawlitschek is the storyteller, and seems to be having a good time with Maggie’s embarrassing revelations, the play really belongs to Lazzaro and Clark. While both are appropriately heroic as Cal and Zoron, and both wear designer Amy Elizabeth Bravo’s costumes well, it is during the flashback scenes, where they play Maggie and her best friend pretending to be Cal and Zoron, that both truly shine.
The other three pieces in Series C do not hit the mark as well as these, but they come close. Safe, by D.W. Gregory, is an interesting piece about terror, both real and imagined. Set during a series of sniper attacks in an unnamed city, Safe shows Len (Tom Greenman) and Claire (Janelle M. Lannan), a young couple cowering in the darkness while trying to protect themselves from a killer. The play is a study in fear and paranoia, but it never really coalesces into a message. Despite this, it is a suspenseful and terrifying piece due to Ian Streicher’s taut direction and some excellent work on the part of the actors. Of all the EATfest plays, Safe featured some excellent lighting work by designer Eric Larson. Given that Safe is played on a nearly dark stage, the use of candles, flashlights, and headlights is an extremely effective touch.
A man’s rejected pass at a waiter in a men’s room, a hastily made up story about needing to leave the restaurant, and his best friend’s need for justice (and dessert) lead to a series of comic situations in Colette Herbstman’s Martin, Are You Mad at Me? Marc Castle plays Martin, who passes his card to the cute waiter in the men’s room only to find the card crumpled up on the floor later. Hurt and humiliated, he tries to get his best friend, Marie (Deb Armelino) to leave, but he can’t tell her why. The story he makes up – that he overheard the waiter talking about him in insulting terms – only gets Marie’s dander up and she makes a scene which leads to an even more humiliating confrontation between Martin, the waiter (Nick Lazzaro) and his manager (Brian Hinds). The play is cute and funny, but Samantha Lee Manas’ direction tends to lag, undercutting some of the humorous moments.
The final play, For the Good of the Nation by Jeffrey Hollman, has its share of humorous moments as well, though it too has a tendency to drag. Jason O’Connell and Paul Herbig play a couple of assassins waiting for their next assignment. Passwords are exchanged, mangled and forgotten. Identities are confused. Plots are hatched. Reinforcements come in (Enid Cortes) and even the Commander (Justin Maruri) makes an appearance. Unfortunately, the truth is hard to come by since no one has the proper authorizations. Part Harold Pinter’s The Dumbwaiter, part Inspector Clouseau, this comedy of errors features excellent work on the part of O’Connell and Herbig, and is only marred by uneven timing.
With 18 plays to choose from, a huge case of excellent actors, and some excellent writing and directing, the Fall 2007 EATfest is not to be missed.
Copyright 2007 by Byrne Harrison
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