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FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #1

Summer Shorts 2: Series B

The last two pieces in this one-act grouping are definitely worth savoring.

By New York City
Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Jonathan C. Kaplan
in Plaisir D'Amour
(© Carol Rosegg)
Stephanie D'Abruzzo and Jonathan C. Kaplan
in Plaisir D'Amour
(© Carol Rosegg)
When it comes to Summer Shorts 2: Series B, now at the always-perking 59E59 Theatres, the best (if not necessarily practical) advice would be to skip the two first-act playlets, Keith Reddin's Our Time is Up and John Augustine's PeopleSpeak, in order to better savor the two works in the second act without a lingering sour taste. The Terrence McNally-Skip Kennon mini-musical Plaisirs d'Amour and Michael Domitrovich's On Island both take a sweetly wise look at love and marriage and hold out for, respectively, acceptance and hope.

Plaisirs d'Amour, which takes its cue from the traditional French ditty but doesn't reprise it, begins with early-stage love pleasures and advances and moves on to the inevitable disillusioning phases that McNally obviously believes speedily follow. Ruth (Stephanie D'Abruzzo) and Sam (Jonathan C. Kaplan) meet cute at a recital where a soprano (Rita Harvey in the first of several roles) is holding forth on love's vagaries. Thereafter, the couple marries, raise children, indulge infidelities and, years later, reach a convincingly realistic conclusion about their relationship. The piece will strike some inveterate theater fans as a variation on Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, but McNally and Kennon's lovely melodies and deft lyrics make the enterprise decidedly appealing, as do the accomplished actor-singers (who also include Neal Mayer in a range of supporting roles).

Anyone who saw Domitrovich's Artfuckers this past year will probably be unprepared for the gentle sagacity of On Island. Greek groom-to-be George (Anthony Carrigan) is getting cold feet before his marriage to the Jewish Sandi (Lisa Birnbaum) on a Martha's Vineyard beach. So he's retreated with brother Leo (Jorge Cordova) to work through the qualms that threaten to overwhelm him. There's much fraternal love here, and when cooling-her-heels-at-the-altar Sandi arrives to get to the delay's bottom, there's even more genuine love circulating on the symbolic sand. Never mind that the glue binding the about-to-be-newlyweds and brother Leo seems to hinge on their shared affection for cult-movie Airplane! These churning Edgartown waters run deep, especially as expertly guided by director Mary Catherine Burke.

The curtain-raisers, conversely, both probe subjects so tired they could be prescribed as substitutes for Ambien. In Reddin's skit, analyst Calley (Janet Zarish) is trying to get patient Sharon (Clara Hopkins Daniels) to examine herself but is so slowly drawn into Sharon's evasions that the doctor-patient relationship becomes reversed. In the twee-named PeopleSpeak, Augustine notices cellphones are isolating appliances, and shows how this alienates unstoppable peoplespeakers Siobhan (Sherry Anderson), Cassie (Patricia Randell), and a waiter (Robert Saxner), who have more in common than they'd have thought. While all the aforementioned actors in both pieces perform with professional sheen, the sketches simply leave plenty to be desired.

For TheaterMania's review of Summer Shorts 2: Series A, click here.


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