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EST Marathon 2008 Series C

The final installment in this year's series of one-act plays suffers from a serious case of the cutes.

By New York City
Diane Davis and Mark Alhadeff in Piscary
(© Jen Maufrais Kelly)
Diane Davis and Mark Alhadeff in Piscary
(© Jen Maufrais Kelly)
For the Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon 2008 Series C, the one-acts go from cute to cutesie to cutesie-poo, which means the audience could leave on a high, if not a sugar high.

The woozy night begins with Frank D. Gilroy's Piscary, directed by Janet Zarish. This go-round, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Subject Was Roses focuses on a pair on young about-to-be-marrieds, called He and She (well played by Mark Alhadeff and Diane Davis). His devotion to a fish tank that she can take or leave leads to an engagement-breaking bicker session that he thinks he'll dominate. That's when the subject becomes his belief that the difference in intellect between him and her is reason enough to quit the relationship -- but not before a game of Scrabble at which they're both certain they'll win. No resolution will be revealed here, but it's enough to say that in a script that could be a Sex and the City outtake, Gilroy amusingly suggests that women are as smart -- if not much smarter -- as men fear they are.

Up next, Lewis Black has tremendous fun with aging Baby Boomers in his cute and cuddly In Between Songs. The tunes are Bob Dylan's, and the auditors are Chaz (Jack Gilpin), pal Ed (David Wohl), and wife Grace (Cecilia DeWolf). As one of Dylan's verbose ditties fades away, the two men -- wearing ties and with their shoes off -- begin a serious but marijuana-disjointed discussion that adds up to nothing. Grace, who's been cooking up a pot of Stove-Top Stuffing, joins them so that the three 50-somethings continue saying plenty but getting across little. The joy of Black's sketch is that he keeps up the rambling discourse as long as he can; the additional fun is that Gilpin, Wohl and DeWolf, all bleary-eyed and loose-jointed, stay on top of the material with director Rebecca Nelson's judicious help.

Things begin shifting from cute to cutesie with Jose Rivera's Flowers, directed by Linsay Firman, which has the feel of a contemporary myth. Lulu (the appropriately named Flora Diaz), an adolescent whose zits are of concern to her but not to younger, video-game-playing brother Beto (Raul Castillo), becomes even more concerned, when the pimples grow to sprouts and then flowers. Eventually, Lulu turns into a tree as if she's someone about whom the Greeks had a cautionary tale, and it becomes apparent that Rivera is writing an allegory of adolescence. Unfortunately, he's not sure the audience is quick-witted enough to get it. So he explains it, making the playlet a tad more pretentious than it's already been.

Village Voice senior critic Michael Feingold goes for dark cuteness with Japanoir, a rumination about the differences between stage and film. Spliced into an interview led by an unnamed Interviewer (Leslie Ayvazian) and answered evasively by Director (Steven Eng) are scenes from two art-house flicks that Director is supposedly shooting: one called Love Movie and the other called Money Movie, a pair of sinister tales that either consciously or unconsciously begin to blend into each other. Whether the one-act -- which does work slyly as satire -- makes the brief point Feingold thinks he's making about art is up for debate. But it's no fault of the cast, including Alexis Camins, Jackie Chung, Karen Tsen Lee, John Haggerty, Glenn Kubota, Rajesh Bose, and Jo Me, or director Richard Hamburger.

Cutesie-poo level is reached with Jacquelyn Reingold's coyly tagged A Very Very Short Play, in which game Julie Fitzpatrick is Joan, a foot-high lady, and equally game Adam Dannheisser is Roger, a 12-foot-plus man. The two are supposed to be at the start of an airplane romance. They may be tall, but the play isn't as short as its title promises, which is a small pity.

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For TheaterMania's review of EST Marathon 2008 Series A, click here.

For TheaterMania's review of EST Marathon 2008 Series B, click here.


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