B Y J A N A R I V E R A
A SHORT PLAY is not an easy play to act, write or produce. Just as the actors begin to slip into a comfort zone with their characters, they find themselves surrounded by darkness and the faint sound of applause. Playwrights do not have the luxury of pecking away at the shells of their characters, allowing the audience slow recognition. Producers have no justification for elaborate set designs to aid the audience's understanding of the situation.
Ten minutes is not much time to integrate all elements of drama, establish the situation, introduce a crisis and bring it all to a climax. To pull it off successfully, all components must click together.
One-In-Ten Theatre Company gives it a shot and mostly succeeds in its latest production, Quickies: An Evening of Short Plays, featuring five stories ranging in length from 10 minutes to about 45 minutes.
In the gem of the evening, a Joe Pintauro play called Rosen's Son, an elderly man confronts his dead son's lover in a Manhattan penthouse. The shortest effort, it packs years worth of passion, pain and intensity into about 10 minutes on stage. In few words, Pintauro manages to allow the audience amazing insight into the lives and losses of his characters.
Brian King portrays Mr. Rosen with the subtle pride and overwhelming sadness of a shattered old man. David J. Kennedy portrays Eddie, a lost soul since the death of Mr. Rosen's son, with convincing emptiness and aimlessness.
Rosen's Son was directed by Madeline Travis.
Tell, written by Victor Bumbalo and directed by Rhonda Hallquist, also deals with the effects of lovers losing lovers, and lovers watching lovers die. Kraig Kensinger and Michael Horrigan confidently portray two men: one dying in a hospital bed, the other young and vibrant and sad.
One takes his lover down memory lane with a graphic depiction of their first meeting and the first time they made love. Kensinger and Horrigan have magnificent chemistry between them and, in the midst of vivid sexual language, their scenes are tender and touching.
The nurse, played by Melinda Anderson, annoyingly interrupts the two continuously during their visit and, quite frankly, annoyingly interrupts the play with a flat, emotionless performance.
Reneé Berry, however, shines in two plays--The Great Nebula in Orion by Lanford Wilson and Rex by Joe Pintauro. In Wilson's play, directed by Mark Read, she and Lisa Ehrenberg play Bryn Mawr classmates in a chance encounter at Bergdorf's in Manhattan.
For the next 45 minutes they explore their vastly different lifestyles--one straight, the other gay--and by the end come together with a realization that they share the common elements of lost loves and empty lives.
Wilson's play shoots forth with a strong beginning and an equally powerful ending, but drags along for about 20 minutes in the middle. If not for Berry's charming performance, it would be agonizing.
Berry also brings life to Rex, a light, humorous play about a moral dilemma brought on by Buddhist beliefs in the value of all animals large and small, and a dead pheasant. Enough said.
Berry shares the stage and the bird with Kim Lowry under Madeline Travis' direction.
The evening of short plays is introduced by a forgettable little play written by Carl Morse and directed by Addam Drake. More humor in the face of the serious subject matter--gay men and women dying and being born--would have given this play the mettle it needs.
Gloria Quintaglie plays Melissa, your run-of-the-mill pregnant woman, and Rosemary Bietendorf plays Michael, an angelic gay man. Although both are good actors, they seem horribly miscast here, and the play moves along at a motionless crawl. Thankfully, it's one of the shortest in the group.
On opening night, all of the plays looked as if they could have used one more week of rehearsal to get clicking at a more satisfactory pace. By now, the bugs should be worked out. Regardless, An Evening of Short Plays is an evening well spent.
One-In-Ten Theatre Company's production of Quickies continues with performances at 8 p.m. through Saturday at the Historic Y Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Ave. Tickets are $9 general admission, $8 seniors and students available at the door or in advance at Antigone Books on Fourth Avenue. For reservations and more information call 770-9279.
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