It’s the sixth edition of Throughline Artists’ annual minifestival of new American one-acts, divided into two separate programs, and as usual the entries vary greatly in theme and quality.
Series A features work by three established writers: Wendy Kesselman, best known for her play My Sister in This House; performer and CBS Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles; and Off Broadway veteran James McLure, who died last year. Kesselman’s Spit is a sentimental, superficial affair. A lonely white teen girl (India Ennenga, awkward) and a wise old black man (Arthur French, doing what he can with a Scatman Crothers–type role) bond over card games; audience members check their watches. Giles has the germ of a compelling one-woman show with The Accidental Pundette, which touches on such weighty topics as our country’s political divide, casual racism and the death of politeness in the communication age. But despite her winning wit and zany energy, she’s in desperate need of a dramaturg, or at least a director.
McLure’s Drive-in Dreams, in which two teenage couples fight and fool around at a movie in the late 1960s, is the sole gem. It’s a familiar scene, but the playwright’s comedic dialogue rings true—even when the guys talk about enlisting to go fight in Vietnam, it’s darkly funny—and although the world has changed a lot over the past four decades, the mechanics of young love remain constant. Drive-in Dreams may be a coming-of-age tale, but it’s easily the evening’s most mature offering.
Heavy hitters also do mostly light work in Series B. Things get off to a flying start in Paul Rudnick’s Cabin Pressure, a hoot of a monologue that stars Peter Bartlett (one of the gaywright’s regulars) as a sassy airline steward accepting a Medal of Valor for thwarting a terrorist attack. He recounts his heroism with panache, pop-culture references and un-PC punch lines, amid constant interruptions from his boyfriend. If campy Karen Black impressions make you cackle, you’ll hop right on board.
Summer Shorts’ sole musical offering, Sam Davis and Sean Hartley’s Love and Real Estate, is a kooky twist on the story of the Three Little Pigs in which the Bacon sisters move to New York City, where they are preyed upon by a wolf of a real-estate agent. There are many funny bits, especially the Noël Coward–style title tune (sung by the always fabulous Edward Hibbert) and Stephanie D’Abruzzo’s turn as the most practical Bacon. But this tuner still needs renovations, especially to its unsatisfying ending.
The work of Neil LaBute is an acquired taste, but it’s hard to imagine anyone having the stomach for The Furies, in which a middle-aged gay man tries to break up with his younger lover as the latter’s vengeful sister looks on. Lies are told, threats made, profanity spewed and desserts destroyed, but it’s all empty calories; there’s no meat here.—Raven Snook