On August 9, 2011, I saw the past, present, and future of theatre playwrights when I attended Throughline Artists' "Summer Shorts 5" (Series A) at 59E59 Theaters in NYC. This wonderful evening of four one-acts had works by Christopher Durang, Neil LaBute, Ruby Rae Spiegel, and Alexander Dinelaris. Each playwright shined as their work was brought to life by a host of wonderful actors.
The evening started off with a heartfelt and comedic piece called "Carrie & Francine" by 17-year-old playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel. At JUST 17-years-old, Ruby Rae wrote this amazing play about two girls who are coming of age in today's world. What better person to write a show like this than someone who is living it. Ruby's message was heard loud and clear...these girls have a lot do deal with from hormonal changes to social pressures. Issues of eating disorders, sexuality, dating, and friendship are all handled with brilliance, humor, and grace as Lydia Weintraub ("Carrie") and Louise Sullivan ("Francine") brought these words to life! I was awestruck by how young and already talented these girls were. I know I've said this before, but I felt as though I once again saw the next generation of theatre on that very stage!
Next up was "Triple Trouble With Love" by Tony Award Nominated playwright, Christopher Durang! This funny and relatable piece followed three people, 2 women and 1 man, through their trials and tribulations of dating, wondering why their relationships never work out. Bringing Christopher's words to life were Aidan Sullivan as "Samantha/Anne," Nick Choksi as "Gary," and Beth Hoyt as "Jackie." My favorite story was "Jackie" because I thought Beth's acting was brilliant! She commanded that stage with her stature and stylisitic way she weaved her words and boyfriends together, as she moved from one to the next, wondering why they didn't work out. She really kept the audience engaged with her skilled and comedic acting. I look forward to seeing more of her.
Then came Alexander Dinelaris' "In This, Our Time" about a middle class family strugging with the distance between the lives they are living and the ones they imagined. Erin Darke who played the daughter "Jules" and Ted Koch who played "Billy," the boyfriend of "Maggie" ("Jules' Mom," played by Maryann Towne) really stood out to me. Erin engulfed the audience from the start as her character started the play off by telling us she learned in school that she and her classmates are the future and one of them might even find the cure for cancer. From there, Erin helped lead the cast through the downward spiral that ensued this family. Ted Koch did a great job of portraying a guy working hard to keep things together, while learning what he really needs to keep together. Maryann had her strong moments as "Maggie," especially during the scene when she came home from the bar to find "Billy" cleaning up. I thought Ryan Tramont who played "Mike," the lover of "Maggie," did a good job with what he was given, which was not much, so I hope to get to see him in a bigger role someday so I can really see what he can do.
Closing the night out was "The New Testament" by Neil LaBute. This hilarious piece about an "Actor" who was recently cast in a biblical epic, meets with the "Producer" and "Writer," and is asked to leave the project before it begins. Neil really hit the mark with this one, touching on a very topical situation (changing the initial vision the original writer possibly had for the piece). The "Actor," played wonderfully by James Chen, is cast while the "Writer" was away and when the "Writer" finds out the "Actor" is of Asian decent, he demands the "Actor" leave the production. The real action began when the negotiations started as tempers, pudding, and strong words all flew through the air. Mando Alvarado did a fine job as the "Producer," while Jeff Binder gave an intense performance as the "Writer." My favorite performance in this piece was James who gave a very strong performance. I felt he really shined as his acting seemed to be very natural and effortless. I hope to see more of him!
I am very glad I attended "Summer Shorts 5" (Series A) because I got to see four talented playwrights, each with their own voice, but yet all had a common theme of personal growth, struggle, and learning lessons. Getting to see, what I will consider, four generations of playwrights and a host of new talent (at least to me) was truly a unique and special treat. "Summer Shorts 5" (Series A) is worth the trip to 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street)! Series A plays through September 3. Click here for tickets!