Summer Shorts: Series A: Theater review by Raven Snook
A grab bag of the good, the not bad and the ugly, 59E59's annual Summer Shorts fest reaffirms how challenging it is to craft a compelling one-act play. The biggest name wrote and directed the biggest miss: 10K by professional provocateur Neil LaBute (whose work I often admire). The two-hander is a physical tour de force as a pair of joggers (the enviably fit J.J. Kandel and Clea Alsip), unhappily married to others, start to think sweating up the sheets might be a more fun workout. Save for one Bad Mommy confession that will make you want to call child protective services, these characters are nondescript ditherers you should run from.
The closer, Matthew Lopez's The Sentinels, is a meditation on the different ways people process grief. A trio of September 11 widows (Meg Gibson, Michelle Beck and Kellie Overbey, all beautifully fleshing out skeletal roles) meets every anniversary for ten years at a nearby coffeeshop. Some move on while others stay stuck, but the play's gimmicky reverse chronology doesn't add to its insights.
The meat comes in the middle: Vickie Ramirez's smart and moving Glenburn 12 WP. An African-American man and a Native American woman walk into an unattended Irish bar near Grand Central and instead of punch lines, you get a politically charged conversation with wit, intelligence and a perceptiveness about what it's like to be a person of color in this country today. W. Tre Davis and Tanis Parenteau have palpable chemistry, which makes the twist at the end all the more devastating. Like the best shorts out there, it leaves you wanting more time with these folks but is perfect as it is.—Raven Snook
59E59 (Off Broadway). By various writers and directors. With ensemble casts. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.