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Summer Shorts 2: Series A

Following a disappointing performance by Amy Irving, this collection of one-acts grows progressively better.

By New York City
Amy Irving in The Waters of March
(© Carol Rosegg)
Amy Irving in The Waters of March
(© Carol Rosegg)
Collections of one-acts are almost always uneven, and Summer Shorts 2: Series A, playing 59E59 Theaters, is no exception. What's surprising is that the brief 30-minute first act features the better known artists of the evening presenting mediocre work, and the much longer second act has lesser known quantities showcasing far superior fare.

The program begins with Amy Irving delivering Leslie Lyles' monologue, The Waters of March, and occasionally singing snippets of Portugese songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim's song of the same name. She portrays Arriana, a middle-aged, alcoholic singer contemplating a drastic measure. The problem is that neither the playwright nor the performer delves deep enough into Arriana's depression; most of the time, it seems as if she's merely waxing nostalgic. Irving commands the stage with a sly elegance, casually draping herself over the furniture of Maruti Evans' cluttered set; but she fails to show the audience the fragile vulnerability that underlies her words, making the final moment of the piece seem both abrupt and not sufficiently motivated.

Next up is Eduardo Machado's Crossing the Border, directed by Randal Myler. The one-note playlet is set in Mexico, where Jacinto (Mando Alvarado) and his son Manuel (Gio Perez) practice baseball, which Jacinto sees as their ticket out of poverty. "If you can pitch or hit, you get an instant green card," says Jacinto, noting the sheer number of Latino major league ball players. There's some nice camaraderie between father and son, but like its characters, the piece doesn't really go anywhere.

Following intermission, things pick up with Neil Koenigsberg's On a Bench, an extended conversation between awkward gay teenager Robert (David Beck), and Anne (Mary Joy), an older Italian woman who sits with him in Sheridan Square. As they talk, they each reveal private anxieties and hopes. As directed by Merri Milwe, the two actors fully inhabit their characters and share a strong chemistry that makes believable their propensity to confide intimate details of their lives so readily.

Roger Hedden's Deep in the Hole concludes the evening on a wholly satisfying note. This witty and hilarious piece takes place somewhere in the Midwest and centers on charming losers Ben (David Ross) and Glen (J.J. Kandel) and their interactions with potential girlfriends Cindy (Emily Tremaine) and Lindy (Kendra Mylnechuk). Arguments over the price of vodka, a game of spin the bottle, and a mishap with an envelope that may or may not contain Anthrax lead to some truly funny moments. The pitch-perfect cast, expertly directed by Billy Hopkins, squeezes every ounce of humor out of Hedden's script, which is a gentle satire of post-September 11 America.


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