by Ed Malin · May 22, 2015
Molly Carden, Megan Tusing in 52nd to Bowery to Cobble Hill, in Brooklyn
It’s very exciting to see what Ensemble Studio Theatre has selected for their 35th Marathon of One-Act Plays. I will be weighing in on all three programs this year, and hope the others will be as good as Series A.
I Battled Lenny Ross (Book by Anna Ziegler, Lyrics and Music by Matt Schatz, Directed by Daniella Topol) is a short musical about a twelve year-old prodigy Lenny (Jake Kitchin), whose stellar performance on 1950s quiz shows won him an interview with Mike Wallace (Aaron Serotsky). Grown-up but not well-adjusted older Lenny (Olli Haaskivin) explains that sometimes life is like coming up to bat during a no-hitter. Wallace confidently asks Lenny to make some predictions about the stock market, but the enfant terrible declines, stating he is afraid to be wrong. Check out the actual interview online, of which this is a heartbreaking rendition.
52nd to Bowery to Cobble Hill, in Brooklyn (by Chiara Atik, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt) is as good an attempt as any to understand someone who wants everyone to like them. Halle (Megan Tusing) is leaving a party when Allison (Molly Carden) follows her and shares her cab. Amusingly, and to the great horror of any introvert, Allison passively-aggressively asks Halle why she is avoiding her. Halle calmly mentions that she just doesn’t like Allison that much. Thus begins the journey to the center of a human being. Halle’s car-sickness is dead-on, while the truth of why Allison’s personality is unchanged from 1st grade is compassionately revealed.
Silver Men (by Amy Fox, directed by Matt Dickson) tells the story of a man who is not there. Wilson (David Margulies) describes how his son, married 25 years, suddenly began to acquire pink objects. His wife, Marjorie (Catherine Curtin) clarifies that after the pink furniture and pink car, he painted the barn pink. A barn isn’t supposed to surprise anyone, Wilson states for the ages. His grandson, Matthew (Tommy Heleringer) is back from college, bringing pink flowers to his father’s funeral. Tommy and Wilson try to bridge the generation gap, suggesting silver as an adequate color. This was a fascinating piece, notable also for what was not said.
The Big Man (by Will Snider, directed by Matt Penn) takes place in a corner of Kenya where Gabe (Gianmarco Soresi), an American Non-Governmental Organization-type, believes he must fight one more instance of corruption. Gabe has been bringing solar panel technology to impoverished people, so why, he wonders, must he come back tomorrow to get his truck that never should have been towed? After the customary exchange of pleasantries about President Obama, the Kenyan policemen Okeyo (Ray Anthony Thomas) and Okech (Brian D. Coats) explain the status quo in a cheery, sing-song fashion. Gabe decides to flatter Sergeant Okeyo, who is a “big man” who can get things done, but this leads to talk about recent election riots and the shooting of oppressed youth. Okech and Okeyo make Gabe act out said riot, with results that shatter his assumptions about Kenya.
In Until She Claws Her Way Out (by Mariah MacCarthy, directed and choreographed by Sidney Erik Wright), Elissa (Naomi Kakuk) is a ballerina recovering from an abusive relationship with fellow company-member Max (Kit Treece). Getting a shot at Swan Lake in Boise, Idaho drives Elissa to distraction, and she and Max connect in ways that fuel their art but leave them scarred. At first, her bruises are easy to explain; after all, dancers get hurt all the time. The broken rib is not so easy to explain. Eventually, the repeat-offender Max gets transferred to another dance gig (like a priest, Elissa classically remarks) but his memory lingers. Only after Elissa has narrated the entire story does Max appear for a hot dance to one of Martin Sexton’s best obsessive songs. This is a sympathetic probing of the connection between creativity and destruction.