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, August 17, 2008

Cake And Plays... But Without The Cake

A tasting menu by a promising young playwright.


There’s a little too much quirk in the top half of this triple bill of short works by playwright Jono Hustis, but the Daniel Horrigan-directed showcase demonstrates Hustis is starting to look beyond the killer set-up. In “Cow and Shakespeare,” an addled bard (Michael Hartney) meets a writing cow (Michael Micalizzi) as Hustis explores the idea that one man from Stratford-upon-Avon couldn’t possibly have come up with all the works that bear his name. The play doesn’t go much further than this one note, an academic perennial, but Micalizzi’s deadpan, all-suffering bovine is a treat. (At one point, he flatly declares, “Have you ever heard of a COW getting a commission?”)

In “Monsoons,” the weakest of the three plays, a first date between the world’s densest man (Craig Mungavin) and a typical uptight female (Morgan Lindsay Tachco) goes, predictably, horribly wrong on both sides. This is a battle of the sexes that deserves a permanent ceasefire, with Christopher “Women don’t get funny” Hitchens as signatory; the decision here to use that tiresome idea as a final punch line leaves a sour taste.

But this stand-up guy and girl are forgotten with “In The Name of Bob,” a slightly longer work that follows a waitress (Darcy Fowler) who meets a man claiming to be her guardian angel (Andy Gershenzon). With the close of each scene came the apprehension that “Bob” would echo, say, “Heaven Can Wait” or (please, no) “City of Angels,” but Hustis pulls a neat twist at the end that satisfies and delights. It’s elevated by the oddball chemistry between Gershenzon and Fowler and especially by Fowler’s closed-off Alicia, who has to make the audience believe she’s just open enough to take the angel Marvin’s bait. When she can do this, the audience can accept Gershenzon’s flailing and oversize presence onstage. Hustis gives Fowler the space in the writing to make that conversion, a sign that desserts aside, he’s a playwright to watch.

“Cake and Plays… But Without The Cake” runs through August 24 at the Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street. For tickets and more information, visit at hand theatre company’s Website.

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