Photos by Carol Rosegg
Personal interactions are the key element in Series B of 59E59 Theater's annual Summer Shorts program. Consisting of three separate one-act works, all by different writers and all with a different director and cast, each of the pieces insightfully explores issues of maturity, change and emotional baggage. Each piece also looks at people at different stages of life.
Things start off with Falling Short by Marian Fontana. Lee (Kendra Mylnechuk), a New York writer in her early 40s and a long-time widow is trying to get back into the dating game. Though she has the support of her family in this endeavor, she keeps running into one loser after another, all hilariously portrayed by Shane Patrick Kearns, on the dating website she frequents. However, one specific entry does receive her attention, Nate (J.J. Kandel), a thirty-something recently-separated actor who's currently working at a Renaissance Faire. After their first date gets off on the wrong foot, Nate arriving 23 minutes late for dinner at a Brooklyn restaurant, things go from bad to worse when it becomes clear that Nate lied in his on-line profile. Yet as the evening goes on Lee finds, to her great surprise, that she's unexpectedly drawn to this man. Especially when it's revealed she and Nate have both suffered great personal tragedies, and also that Nate isn't the only one who lied, or at least omitted certain things in the dating profile.
Both cute and funny, Falling Short offers some interesting situations when it comes to issues of love, loss and moving on, even though the show's ending is somewhat ambiguous. While both Kandel and Mylnechuk do a good job with their respective roles, the character definition is at times too one-dimensional. Thus one never feels more than a passing interest for the people involved. High marks must go to Kearns, who nearly steals the show in his role as Eric, a gay waiter who commiserates with Lee on the problems of finding a stable and happy relationship while she's waiting for Nate to make his belated appearance. Falling Short is directed by Alexander Dinelaris.
Interesting to a point, and a play which could easily have been presented as low comedy, high drama or a complete farce, the playwright and director Billy Hopkins seeming to go for something in-between all three; the central idea suffers due to a serious lack of characterization, with all three persons coming off as too shallow to really care about. A chief problem is Ted and Carla's unwillingness to take a stand on anything. Rather they continually pass decisions back and forth, each seeing how far the other will go or perhaps hoping the other will say "no" and bring everyone back to reality. Their overall behavior is also rather strange since their children happen to be asleep in the next room. A fact brought up constantly, lest anyone forgets.
The acting by Manette, Dempsey and Daugherty is okay, if nothing special. Though the comedic moments, especially those by Daugherty when her character is in the midst of a drug-induced haze, work far better than the dramatic ones.
The final piece of this collection, and by far the most poignant, is Alan Zweibel's Pine Cone Moment. A play about two elderly people experiencing what may very well be their last chance at love. That is, if they can find a way to leave their baggage from the past behind.
Interspersed with flashbacks when Barry and Bunny were alive, Pine Cone Moment shows how marriages are shaped by how much effort one puts into them. All four actors play their roles very well. Reddy is especially good as a man wanting to come out of his shell for the first time in decades, but terrified to try to become the person Emma wants him to be, and the person Barry knows he can be. Lagerfelt strikes the right note as someone holding too tightly to the past, while Murtaugh does well as the wise husband who understands quite well the needs of the living. Saviloa's performance is a bit hamstrung by her rather stereotypical character, but it's both funny and realistic enough to work perfectly in the premise the playwright has set up.
Funny, touching and with a couple of gentle life lessons tossed in, Summer Shorts, Series B makes for an interesting and overly pleasant pastime.
Summer Shorts, Series B
Featuring: Kendra Mylnechuk (Lee), Shane Patrick Kearns (Eric, Others), J.J. Kandel (Nate)
Written by Marian Fontana
Directed by Alexander Dinelaris
Assistant Director: Isabel Carter
Featuring: Alex Manette (Ted), Michael D. Dempsey (Jordan), Allison Daugherty (Carla)
Written by Paul Weitz
Directed by Billy Hopkins
Assistant Director: David Friedman
Pine Cone Moment
Featuring: Brian Reddy (Harry), Caroline Lagerfelt (Emma), James Murtaugh (Barry), Camille Saviola (Bunny)
Written by Alan Zweibel
Directed by Fred Berner
Assistant Director: Megan Correia
Choreographer: Deanna Dys
Set Design: George Xenos
Lighting Design: Greg MacPherson
Sound Design: Marios Aristopoulos
Costume Design: Tamara Menear
Production Manager/Assistant Stage Manager: Mark Karafin
Jenna Lazar: Assistant Stage Manager
Wardrobe Supervisor: Megan Parker
Technical Director: Bob Teague
Casting: Billy Hopkins
Casting Assistant: Ashley Ingram
Press Representative: David Gersten & Associates, David J. Gersten/Daniel Demello
Production Stage Manager: Dee Dee Katchen
Producing Organization: Throughline Artists
59 East 59th Street
Tickets: 212-279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Information: www.summershortsfestival.com or www.throughlineartists.org
Running Time: 1 hours, 40 minutes with one intermission
Closes: August 31, 2013