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Summer Shorts 2017

  • Theater, Drama
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

The 11th annual edition of this festival of new American playlets shows off its legs by harnessing established talents to debut short works alongside those of relative newcomers. The six pieces are divided into two series, presented in rep. Series A includes work by Graham Moore (who won an Oscar for The Imitation Game) as well as Melissa Ross and SNL pioneer Alan Zweibel; Series B features pieces by Lindsey Kraft and Andrew Leeds, Kel Haney and that inevitable short-play-festival mainstay Neil LaBute.

Series A: Theater review by Helen Shaw

The theme of this year’s Summer Shorts (Series A) seems to be “making mountains into molehills.” Each of its three playlets takes a situation and diminishes it: We get an inert story about grief, a psychosexual talkfest that builds to an anticlimax and a divine retribution plot with no thunder.

Melissa Ross’s Jack depicts divorcés (Quincy Dunn-Baker and Claire Karpen) bickering over their dog’s ashes while actually mourning a different loss. Despite a strong premise, there’s no weight in the couple’s anguish; Ross seems a draft away from done. Screenwriter-novelist Graham Moore offers Acolyte, a one-act burdened with an easy target. Ayn Rand (Orlagh Cassidy) turns her pseudo-philosophy of “enlightened self-interest” against student Barbara (Brontë England-Nelson), demanding sexual access to the young woman’s husband. Rand’s ideas about things like the “purpling scratches of the haphazard” are presented as such idiocy that we can’t rouse ourselves even when she is screaming about them. If the overwritten monologues were edited out, however, there might be something tart underneath.

Sadly, nothing could rescue Alan Zweibel’s Playing God. Annoyed that ob-gyn Steven (Dana Watkins) plans to induce a pregnancy to accommodate his vacation schedule, God (Bill Buell) proposes a Faustian squash game. There’s a gag about Boca Raton and a two-decades-late punch line about The Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi. Despite a lazy Trump joke, the sketch seems to have been dusted off after years in the drawer. Back it goes.

59E59 Theaters (Off Broadway). By various writers. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through Sept 1.

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Written by
Helen Shaw


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