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Summer Shorts 2012: Series A

This trio of one-act plays by Wendy Kesselman, Nancy Giles, and James McLure are decidedly above-average.

By New York City
Erin Darke, Connor Buckley, Megan Ketch
and Nick Gehlfuss in Drive-In Dreams
(© Rahav Segev / Photopass.com)
Erin Darke, Connor Buckley, Megan Ketch
and Nick Gehlfuss in Drive-In Dreams
(© Rahav Segev / Photopass.com)
More often than not, an evening of new one-acts ends up being described as "uneven' or "mixed," but that's happily not the case with the trio of above-par entries in this year's Summer Shorts 2012: Series A at 59E59 Theaters

The curtain-raiser, Wendy Kesselman's Spit, trades in charm even as it deals forcibly, though in a roundabout manner, with race. Elderly Horace (Arthur French) remains smilingly patient and helpful when young Heather (India Ennenga) arrives for their championship card game but initially doesn't realize the elderly black man seated at the table is her opponent.

Gradually, however, she not only comes to admire the mentor, who even has nifty card tricks to teach her, but to confide in him about, among other things, her unconsciously intolerant mother and an African-American school friend on whom she has a crush. In several brief scenes that have the feel of a pleasantly upended Driving Miss Daisy -- and are affectingly played by French and Ennenga and subtly supervised by Jade King Carroll -- Wesselman portrays a budding friendship that crosses color lines and generations. Yet, for all its demonstrable successes, it still develops in a societal atmosphere that remains sorrowfully inhospitable.

The Accidental Pundette, written and performed by Nancy Giles, is an affable commentary during which the CBS Sunday Morning contributor discusses her attitude towards prejudice. Asking patrons early in her talk to hold hands, she's hinting at the message she's sending, which has to do with making connections. She maintains that her goal is to carry on "reasonable" conversations. There's no arguing with that, especially when it's framed in such a friendly manner.

James McLure's Drive-In Dreams is the longest of the three plays, and serves as the entire and entirely satisfactory second act. Whit (Nick Gehlfuss) and Richie (Megan Ketch) are in the front seat of Whit's car, and D. L. (Connor Buckley) and Marge (Erin Darke) are in the back seat. Ostensibly, the couples are parked at their small-town Texas drive-in to see Kirk Douglas in The Vikings.

What the boys are really there for is to see how far they can go with the girls. What the girls are there for is to hold on to their virginity until they marry the boys. On the other roving hand, they're willing to do everything just shy of donating the choicest "gift" a girl has to offer a boy.

What transpires while the boys meet resistance when trying to break down the girls' defenses is a lot of extremely funny talk during which McLure fills in an impressive amount of information on the manners and mores of four attractive but not overwhelmingly bright 1960s teenagers. Ultimately, they're the kind of decent kids who agree they like chili dogs and "The Theme from "A Summer Place" in a thoroughly amusing way.

At the same time, the work -- appealingly played by the cast and and directed by Billy Hopkins -- seems like both a bulletin from a long-lost yesterday and a report on teenage behavior that is as fresh as tomorrow.


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