Itís funny when it doesnít happen to you

Screwups

By Justin Warner
Directed by Courtney Birch, Michael D. Jackson and Ari Laura Kreith
Buffalo Bridge Productions
Manhattan Theatre Source (www.theatresource.org)
177 MacDougal St. (www.theatermania.com; 212/352-3101)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 19)
Review by Byrne Harrison

Things go wrong. Itís an inevitable fact of life. When it happens to you, itís terrible. But when it happens to someone else, itís usually funny as hell. Screwups, by Justin Warner, shows just how funny it can be, in six hilarious 10-minute plays.

Courtney Birch, Michael D. Jackson and Ari Laura Kreith each directed two of the short plays. Birch went first with the wildly amusing Head Games, in which Herod (Jeff Hiller) delivers the head of John the Baptist to Salome (Janine Kyanko). But was that really what she wanted? In Bum Steer, husband and wife, Sally (Amy Picar), and Ed (Adam A. Sullivan), tell the story of their anniversary dinner and Edís losing battle with a 96-ounce steak. Kreith directed Microcosm, the tale of a pair of scientists (Steve Minow and Amelia Morgan-Rothschild) who match wits with a couple of commando germs (Jill Maclean and Ryan Dietz) and Page-Turner, about a visit to a library that goes very wrong for a Man (Matt Boethin) and the Mysterious Stranger (Matt Knight) he meets in the stacks. Jackson directed The Face of God and Fat Naked Truckers. In the first, Eugene (Minow) meets his Maker, only to find out heís a desk jockey named Brad (Jeff Hiller). In Fat Naked Truckers, Jack Henderson (Jason Grossman) gets his perfect suburban life turned upside-down thanks to a telemarketer named Cheryl (Andrea Biggs) who wonít take no for an answer and a magazine called Fat Naked Truckers.

Due to the quick-change nature of the show, sets and costumes were a little spare. Each prop and set piece had to be carried on and off by the actors in blackout, and with the exception of Head Games they were in modern dress. This spareness, however, tended to put the focus on the actors themselves, who were more than up for the task. Especially notable were the expressive and wonderfully over-the-top Hiller in Head Games and The Face of God and Biggs as the super-perky yet menacing saleslady in Fat Naked Truckers. And though Bum Steer was the least laugh-out-loud funny show of the evening, Sullivan and Picar were spot-on as the older married couple who told each otherís stories and finished each otherís sentences.

Given the strong cast, good directing, and genuinely funny plays, Screwups was a night of theatre that audiences will laugh about for days. And those who donít usually read the program should check this one out, if for no other reason than to find out the history of the International Natural Sausage Casings Association.

Screwups also featured Bridget Harvey, Gabriel Grilli, and Virginia Drda.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Byrne Harrison