One Act Play Marathon
36th Marathon at Ensemble Studio Theatre
By: Susan Hall - Jun 30, 2017
36th Marathon of One-Act Plays
Ensemble Studio Theatre
New York, New York
Through June 30, 2017
Ensemble Studio Theatre does a great service to the dramatists of America and passionate theater-goers. It presents new work in an intimate setting with productions that support playwrights and actors.
Wrapping up the 36th annual season, each of the five plays had merit. The standout was Intensive Care by Donald Marcus and directed by Jamie Richards.
At first you don’t know where you are. Two men are seated at small café tables, with one empty table between them. They are waiting. We hear a loudspeaker calling a doctor. The men look somewhat numbed and sad. We come to see that we are in a hospital waiting room. These two men are apparently waiting for the outcome of their wives’ surgeries. They share worry, concern and slowly describe where they’ve come from. Both cannot imagine life without their wives.
George played by Eric Conger is a yacht club Wasp, who doesn’t take that privilege too seriously. Zach Grenier is a minor mobster, Joe, who married into a middle-weight Don’s family. Both men invite us into their lives and feelings. We are sitting with them, waiting. The dialogue is natural and apt. The scene is full of tension and surprise. As perfectly directed by Jamie Richards it should have legs.
Each of the other plays had merit. Some taught a lesson about selecting hot subjects which tempt with their immediacy. Yet they can so easily fail without a fresh perspective. Amy Fox's Good Results are Difficult When Indifference Predominates pushes the ‘pussy’ as women knit pink pussy caps furiously before a big march. They pressed the image much too far without making its point.
The Good Muslim by Zakiyyah Alexander probed the feelings of a young Muslim woman in contemporary America. Although this theme pervaded the drama, it was kept hovering, which made it interesting. Playwright Alexander had an interesting idea in introducing a virtual reality game, played out live on stage, in which the lead character performed the young man/young woman role. However, suggesting that these were low grade games did not overcome the production’s weak presentation of them. In the next iteration, the play will be strengthened if a more imaginative setting is brought to the games. Susan Heyward was particularly winsome and sassy as the kitchen help.
Female Beginner by Edith Freni was an interesting take on a politician’s expectations for his family. The two-hander between father and daughter was set in the now. Yet the team did not seem like either Ivanka and the President or the Obama girls with their father. Set in time past it might be more effective.
Santa Doesn't Come to the Holiday Inn by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder created the world of recently divorced parents who wanted to celebrate Christmas together with their child. The premise is one of universal experience these days, but it is not often portrayed. This take had lovely moments. Peter and Annie played by Eddie Boreevich and Allison Jean White executed a dangerous dance artfully.
Everything the EST produces is done well, so an evening watching the work they develop is always at the very least satisfying. This one had moments of transparent beauty.