Matt Lauria in An Upset
(© Jen Maufrais Kelly)
Matt Lauria in An Upset
(© Jen Maufrais Kelly)
The EST Marathon, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, offers a mixture of established and up-and-coming talents in three different programs of one-acts. Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn presents the best piece in EST Marathon 2008 Series A. An Upset, directed by Harris Yulin, stars Matt Lauria and Darren Goldstein as a pair of professional tennis players at different points in their careers. Played out in three short scenes, the piece has a satisfying dramatic arc while also touching upon issues of competition and celebrity in a funny and engaging manner. Lauria is particularly strong as the young, Romanian upstart who convincingly undergoes the most changes during the span of the play.

The most promising piece in the program is Christmas Present by Amy Herzog, directed by RJ Tolan. Following a one-night stand, Jess (Julie Fitzpatrick) catches Benji (Jake Hoffman) sneaking out the door. An awkward conversation ensues, with Jess attempting to get some contact information from Benji, just in case of a pregnancy or STD. Fitzpatrick is hilariously neurotic as Jess rattles on while Hoffman (son of Dustin) is charmingly low-key. The end of the piece comes far too soon, however, and I'm hoping this is just an excerpt from a longer work that will more fully explore the playwright's themes and characters.

Another highlight is Michael John Garcés' Tostitos, which is eerily reminiscent of Eric Bogosian's subUrbia. Both works feature bored youth hanging out in a parking lot, working through their feelings of anger and discontent. Red (Andres Munar) and Annie (Jenny Gomez) are friends and possibly lovers who pass the time scoring free food and drink from Tonya (Karen Eilbacher), the daughter of Doughnut Avenue proprietor Danny (Howard Overshown). Power dynamics and alliances keep shifting throughout the piece, and director May Adrales keeps the tension taut. Munar is a standout, endowing Red with an underlying rage that manifests as a casual cruelty that threatens to explode into violence at any time.

Less effective is A Little Soul Searching, which serves as the opening act. A mini-musical by Willie Reale and Patrick Barnes, the piece is set in Limbo, as Randolph (Michael Potts) and Prudence (Karen Trott) reminisce about their past lives before moving on to their next reincarnation. The joke wears thin quickly, and the derivative musical numbers don't add much to the proceedings.

The final piece of the evening, Quincy Long's Wedding Pictures, is also the least entertaining. Played out as a melodramatic pantomime set to music by a live violinist (Heather Summerlad), it tells the story of a bride (Autumn Dornfeld) and groom (Eric Gilde) whose wedding is interrupted by the groom's gay lover (Jakob Hawkins). While there are a couple of amusing moments, it soon grows tedious.

But at least it's brief, and several of the other playlets sharing the bill still make this Marathon evening worth attending.