Rebecca Schull and Christian Campbell
in The Green Book
(© Rahav Segev/Photopassedit)
Rebecca Schull and Christian Campbell
in The Green Book
(© Rahav Segev/Photopassedit)
Like Series A, the quartet of plays that make up Series B of Summer Shorts 5, now at 59E59 Theatres, provide both pleasure and disappointment.

Jose Rivera's Lessons for an Unaccustomed Bride begins promisingly enough with a spirited exchange between a young Christian woman (Shirley Rumierk) and the town witch (Socorro Santiago) who she's known since she was little and is now turning to for advice on her impending marriage. This unlikely exchange is engaging until the conversation turns to the existence of God. Rivera doesn't bring anything new to the discussion, and his play quickly fizzles out.

Tina Howe's Some Women In Their Thirties Simply Start to Fall, which comes next, is structured around an endearingly absurd premise: a thirty-something children's book writer (Crystal Finn) is overcome with such an intense dizzy spell outside of the famed Upper West Side market Citarella that her head literally falls off when she hits the ground. This is brought to life through a little bit of stage magic engineered by director Billy Hopkins and skillfully executed by Finn and Kate Geller as her headless body.

A couple of elderly passersby (Arthur French and Kathryn Grody) become a makeshift Greek chorus as we learn about the writer's history with these dizzy spells and the affair she's having with her nebbish illustrator. It's intermittently charming, but Howe's dialogue struggles to sustain her premise.

Keith Reddin's Clap Your Hands closes the first act strongly with a slice-of-life glimpse of two unhappily married couples celebrating the New Year together at the Waldorf Astoria. It's a tradition for the older couple (Victor Slezak and Meg Gibson), and this year they've decided to invite a younger lawyer from Slezak's firm (J.J. Kandel) and his beautiful if miserable wife (Megan Ketch) who's convinced that her husband is cheating on her with a girl he danced with at an office party. Tensions build through the night as the clock inches closer to midnight, and by the end, we're so delightfully wrapped up in the madness of these characters lives that we wish it could last longer.

Unfortunately, this can't be said for Will Scheffer's dreary "alchemical comedy" The Green Book, which takes up the entire second act. It could be argued that the play's events seem blurry at best because the main character Sheila (Rebecca Schull) is suffering from Alzheimer's, but it makes for a very grating experience.

The play takes place in her Queens home during a visit from her son Ben (Neal Huff) and his husband Sam (Christian Campbell). Her daughter Frannie (Jodie Markell) who lives around the corner comes by as well, but their conversations are such a blur that not even the dynamic Markell can save them.