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Connect Five

This evening of one-act plays about people struggling to connect would benefit from stronger acting.

By New York City
Blaze Mancillas and Heather Oakley
in The Room and a Richard
(© Simon Miner)
Blaze Mancillas and Heather Oakley
in The Room and a Richard
(© Simon Miner)
Some promising work is featured in Connect Five, an evening at Ars Nova of world-premiere one-acts by playwrights Lucy Thurber, Wendy MacLeod, Bronwen Prosser and Danny Mitarotondo. Each of the plays is about the struggle for people to connect, particularly on a romantic level. Unfortunately, the production's major pitfall is the inability of some of the performers to connect with each other and with their respective texts.

The evening begins with "The Make-out Queen," a solo work written and performed by Prosser and directed by Kathryn Walsh. Taking up nearly half of the 75 minutes of the entire production, what you see in "Make-out Queen" is pretty much what you get: an intermittently funny but over-long survey of the lost art of kissing, as told by a frustrated, young romantic.

"Last Night" is a scorching two-hander by MacLeod that takes place the morning after a night of wild passion. Sarah Kauffman plays a young woman who was so apparently innovative in bed with her partner (Michael Pantozzi) that he suspects she's been rehearsing with someone else. The fact that this brief comedy has no real ending is less aggravating than the lack of chemistry between the performers and the suspicion that they don't fully understand their characters. Overly literal readings take the place here of three-dimensional subtext.

A similar situation exists with Thurber's "Young." Kauffman and Pantozzi appear in this drama as well and, once again, are in slightly over their heads, although Pantozzi fares a little better in a less demanding role. Kathleen Littlefield provides some initial spark as a young woman whose fickle seductions exasperate her female partners, past and present, but she and director Shannon Fillion ultimately seem unable to ground her character. Lila Dupree, however, is consistently solid as the angry current girlfriend.

Mitarotondo's "The Room and a Richard," is an intriguingly stylized play that concerns a young man (an engaging Blaze Mancillas) who has been unexpectedly bequeathed the coveted Manhattan apartment of an older gay man he barely knew. Doing much of the coveting is the dead man's sister, played with vinegar and verve by Heather Oakley. Director Mo Zhou helps maintain the intricate rhythms of the piece, although she has a less sure hand at the end when things suddenly take a turn for the absurdist and both characters seem to reencounter a lifetime of human connections.

For tickets to Connect Five, click here.


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