The way we are

Short Stories 4

Fourth annual short-play festival
NativeAliens Theatre Collective
Flatiron Playhouse
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

It wouldn't be Gay Pride without NativeAliens' Short Stories. This year's collection was less gentle and kind than previous incarnations, and even a little more uneven, but NativeAliens can't be praised too highly for getting new work on stage and letting writers see what their typing looks like with actors on a set.

Anthony P. Pennino's Avatar (directed by Mary Tarochione) was a harsh and overly literary exploration of a relationship between two brothers that is something more than fraternal, where psychosexual games combine with sibling rivalry. It was brave even if it didn't all hang together -- part soap opera, part No Exit -- with Tyler Ashby Jones and Timothy Ryan Olson ably demonstrating the many ways strength can be shown.

Coming after that, Garth Wingfield's Cha Cha Cha (directed by Jodi Smith) lightened things up considerably. At a high-school reunion, Sheila (Melissa Wolff) doesn't remember Henry (Troy Schremmer) until he describes the fatty he used to be. "You must be gay," she says, derisively thinking of her own husband. Well he is, actually, but he had a crush on her back then. The play is slight and unsurprising, but good acting and direction made it funny and only slightly bittersweet as they reminisce about the cha-cha they did in dancing class.

Matt Heftler's Father's Day (directed by Rebecca Kendall) was also unsurprising. It's clear right away that the man at the desk is a state senator (Andrew Dawson), and it's also apparent that while Robert (Kevin Varner) is an old friend of his daughter's, he also has a favor to ask. There's a gay adoption bill coming up for a vote, and.... It's didactic and obvious but still it was heartfelt, even with a large dollop of wish-fulfillment on top.

As for Tyler Jason Fereira's What's Going On In Room 610? - well, what indeed? The funniest, most surreal poetry workshop ever, that's what, with a bunch of crackpots that could only have been derived from real life (only the slightest bit exaggerated). Peter Herrick was the poet wannabe who longs to get sick to further his art, the very funny Jodi Smith was the abusive and offensive woman who was published once in The New Yorker 47 years ago; Lisa Shaheen was the instructor who couldn't be more self-absorbed or less in touch with reality; and Tyler Ashby Jones played our hero, a typical middle-class math major who shuts them all up with a fine and lyrical poem about a sexual experience. (This one's wish-fulfillment too.) The blackout comes when he stops reading and asks "Should I continue?" Yes, Mr. Fereira.

Excellent acting highlighted Jennie Contuzzi's My Father's Son (directed by Jeff Seabaugh). Two brothers (again!) locked in a power play of love and hate, exemplifying internal- and externalized homophobia. An abusive father, the difference between appearance and action, sex as a rite of passage -- it's all in there. It felt like more of a character study than a play, but as the older brother Cary Woodworth was electrifying, and Nick Malone rose to his level.

Lindsay Price's The Drive (directed by Michelle Berke) had a chipper Allison (Alice Bugman) on the way to her wedding with her future sister-in-law Rose (Melissa Wolff). Rose's lover is not coming, for various phobic reasons on everyone's part, and Allison finds herself wanting to be "influenced" by Rose. It was quite cheerful and lighter than air, anchored by Wolff's wry and caring performance.

Manly Men Doing Manly Things by Scott C. Sickles was the only out-and-out romance of the bunch, with Les (Herb Ouellette) at the hospital waiting for word of his father's condition, and his ex-lover Doug (Michael Lester) stopping by uninvited. The "manly things" are the hunting, race-car driving, and sportswriting these guys do, yet they're just as needy and ostensibly oblivious as anybody else, male or female. But Sickles gives them the possibility of a happy ending, and Ella Fitzgerald's version of "Our Love is Here to Stay" played as the lights went down. It was hard not to smile at the sweetness of it all.

Erik Weinberg stage-managed, and the lighting/scenery/sound/costumes were unluxurious but professional.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler