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Summer Shorts 2012: Series B

This entertaining trio of short works by Paul Rudnick, Sean Hartley & Sam Davis, and Neil Labute have a high silliness quotient.

Peter Bartlett in Cabin Pressure
(© Rahav Iggy Segev / Photopass)
So what if the three one-acts in Summer Shorts 2012 Series B, at 59E59, go on a bit long, ultimately don't quite add up, and contain a high silliness quotient? The silliness is an essential part of an intermissionless 95 minutes lacking a single boring second.

Paul Rudnick's Cabin Pressure, featuring the always giddily funny Peter Bartlett and directed by Tony Award winner Walter Bobbie, is the engaging curtain-raiser. Bartlett portrays Ronald, a gay flight attendant who single-handedly foiled an in-flight terrorist attack -- and who we meet speaking into a double-headed microphone at a Presidential medal-bestowing ceremony (with Barack Obama among his audience of notables).

Insisting he modeled his actions on Karen Black's heroics in Airport 1975, Ronald unburdens himself of any number of jibes poking satirical fun at a wide range of contemporary targets. Some hit their mark and others don't, but the well-aimed are enough to start this evening flying.

The second piece, Love and Real Estate, exposes the audience to a refutation of the worn-out cliché: "They don't write 'em like they used to." Indeed, the title tune of this mini-musical written by lyricist librettist Sean Hartley and composer Sam Davis, is squarely -- and hiply -- in line with the sort of sophisticated patter song Noel Coward regularly tossed off.

It's sung in his best Cowardesque fashion by Edward Hibbert, who also serves risibly as the narrator of this fable about the three Bacon sisters: Charlotte (Stephanie D'Abruzzo), Emily (Jessica Hershberg), and Annie (Sarah Corey). Each becomes involved with Lukas (Kevin Greene), who approaches them separately with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and apparent romance in mind but really is hunting for an apartment.

Lukas' intentions quickly become obvious to spectators -- although the characters take longer to figure out what's going on -- but luckily, Hartley, Davis, the five engaging and vocally-gifted performers, and director Devanand Janki keep the pace hopping sufficiently.

Lastly, though not leastly, Neil LaBute's The Furies positions Barry (Victor Slezak) in a restaurant opposite Jimmy (J.J. Kandel, also the series executive producer) and his sister Jamie (Alicia Goranson). The men are lovers of different generations who've squabbled, and Jamie is there to advise her brother -- mostly by whispering in his ear -- on whether reconciliation is advisable.

Throughout the discussion, Barry attempts to explain why he's called the meeting and Jamie instructs Jimmy to pay no attention. She assumes Barry means deviously to break off the men's 14-month love affair. When Barry finally gets to his point -- not what the siblings expected -- Jimmy begins to relent. However, Jamie isn't buying and turns into the fury LaBute's title proposes.

Yes, the tone of the sketch is confusing, but much of the laughter it provokes does seem intended. Moreover, the playwright provides the suavely intense actors and director Stephen Hamilton with abundant opportunities for amusing and even touching theatrical fireworks.

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