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.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You People, short plays about those people

Reviewed by Amanda Cooper

An evening of one-acts can be a mixed blessing: If the current act being performed is lacking (or even torturous), a fresh start is never too far away. But this also means that a rockin’ play is never far from being over. Fortunately for theater company The Shalimar, their evening of one-acts, entitled You People, doesn’t have a dud (at least not in the evening I attended, when only four out of five plays were performed) – or anything close to it. But at the same token, the evening does not also provide something Spectacular.

The connective tissue for this group of short plays is the concept of “those people” – you know, not us. Not the urban-dwelling, liberal-minded, well-enough-to-do folk who most likely make up You People’s audience. The possibilities are far-reaching, and each playwright tackles a different person, or rather, type of person. Perhaps not purposefully, sex plays a significant role in each of these stories (are we, as a culture, a bit obsessed with how “the others” sexually satisfy?). Even the musical interludes between each piece – mock-pop numbers performed by rocker chicks and a dude – are almost exclusively sexual in content.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy sex-talk on stage as much as the next liberal urbanite. And in fact, this universal interest isn't the point of these pieces; it's the vehicle for a perspective on a larger concept.

Deseret Desire” kicks off the evening with commentary on how far one goes to stay “true” to their religion. With a presentational approach to the material, the couple exaggerates their actions and emotions with positive results. Josh Liveright’s piece is directed with a clear presence by Camilo Fontecilla: Performers Laurie Naughton and Justin Okin do not literally interact with one another, but act out their relations from separated chairs to solid comic effect.

The self-obsession of an Upper East Side wife dominates “Miss Morely’s Revenge” so much that she can’t see the forest for the trees. Sharyn Rothstein’s storyline is about revenge taken by the overlooked in life – in this case, the large woman who the skinny matron doesn’t even think to suspect of being her husband’s lover. Though the concept is clever, Mrs. Hardy’s ignorance gets old well before the end. Dawn Evans, however, plays the Mrs. so tightly - she is so ignorant of the mockery being made of her - that there is sympathy possible for that skinny bitch, too.

And then there’s “Tostitos,” in which a teenager’s crush marks the beginning of her (scary) foray into independence. Written by Michael John Garces, easily the most established of the evening’s writers, this is the creative team with the most potential. Director May Adrales is an actor’s director, cultivating the characters and their subtext poignantly, and the foursome cast responds well. But the play, and this production, is attempting to accomplish too much. It’s a nuanced, coming-of-age story that ends up feeling skeletal in this short form.

Closing out the evening is the endearing and fresh “Blanco.” Blanca is an illegal alien who creates a fantasy life online in order to fulfill her unfulfilled dreams. Though the circumstances are wacky (umm, joining a gay porn site), there is a complementary quietness to the play with Blanca and her grandmother's lonely real lives. Writer Hilly Hicks Jr. seems to be experimenting with style in this play, and not all the devices work, but a one-act’s sure a great opportunity to take chances. Nameless narrators also become characters for moments, and music is awkwardly used to represent loss.

Theater company The Shalimar has cobbled together a sassy evening that can certainly give Us People some laughs, and even a little insight on what it may be like to not be… Us.

The InterArt Annex (500 West 52nd Street)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $10.00
Performances (through 12/16): Thurs. - Sun. @ 8:00

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