According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

by Aaron Riccio

Eight funny one acts. One unfunny theme. That's an odd amalgam of farce and rhetoric, but the evening's saucy, charming, and, most importantly, hip.

isn’t a play: it’s a collection of playful riffs on a theme—perfect for such an intangible ideal. The majority of these are political farces (an easy topic), from the elusive double-talk of government to gun control to the circus of world affairs. Two focus on the off-again-on-again rights of women, from the smarmy Victorian work of marital blackmail (“The Proposal”) to the sexually liberated American woman today (“100 Years War”). There are also pure character pieces: the gun-toting elderly couple of P. Seth Bauer’s “Killing Squirrels in Sleep Hollow,” the type of inadvertent racists who, nervous that there’s a robber downstairs, take the time to point out that “You don’t know he’s a Mexican. He could be black.”

For the thinkers, there’s a brilliant monologue, much like the recent Thom Paine, that dismantles the barrier between audience and action (“Don’t Quit”). For me, this quietly effective piece—written by C. Denby Swanson, coyly performed by Don Carter, and gracefully directed by Matthew Cowart—was the highlight of the evening . . . and that was before I was targeted by Mr. Carter. Also of note, Paul Siefken’s “Circus Berzerkus,” a hip-hop exploitation of the Bush Administration, buoyantly staged by Shana Gold and entertainingly emceed by K-Rove himself (Allesandro Colla).

You won’t find a better comedic value anywhere in the city, though to be fair, the acting is not always up to par with the writing. But even at its worst, Security (which will premiere another eight shorts in the fall) remains unflaggingly entertaining. The topic is a universal one, and even when the presentation is compressed and contrived, as in Kat Mc Camy’s “Safety Off,” there’s still enough truth to help us feel connected. The evening's only odd decision is to stage both Brian Dykstra’s “Bells and Whistles” and Neil Olson’s “Zahara.” Both deal with various government agencies working over and around one another, and the closeness in theme makes Dykstra’s incredibly flat, even though it has more characters and wordplay. Olson’s script, set in a featureless airport holding cell, observes the finicky nature of a government that one day uses innocents to smuggle weapons to friendly terrorists (e.g., anti-Iranian ones), only to arrest them for treason the next.

At about fifteen minutes each, the one-acts don’t run long enough to feel played out (if anything, they feel rushed). The Drilling CompaNY’s mission is to provide a springboard, and they succeed doubly, helping both to launch the careers of many talented artists as well as to provoke the thoughts of the audience.

[Aaron Riccio]

78th Street Theater Lab (236 West 78th Street)
Tickets (212-414-7717): $18.00
Performances: Wednesday – Saturday @ 7:30 / Sunday @ 3:00

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