In this year's Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, you can catch an evening of five smashing ten-minute plays by Sharon E. Cooper. Each show in the Festivity is done to benefit a charity, and this one is on behalf of New York Cares.
Wow, I am still in shock from the impact of the piece Wish You Were Here My Love. It takes talent to write a compelling ten-minute play, and, since this one is based on a real episode of "This is Your Life", it is a shorter version of a 25-minute version of Hannah Bloch Kohner's (Hend Ayoub) Holocaust experience, with perky music. www.sharonecooper.com has the link to the full video. Without ruining anything, I can say that this piece fits nicely with the others as far as they show people living in and overcoming an absurdly impersonal reality.
Occupied is a piece about Stephanie's (Mia Ellis) adventure with Bank of the People's customer service. She asks a Teller (Hend Ayoub) to explain mysterious charges, and on the spot finds out that she and her cat do not qualify for refinancing. It's sad that this piece is so funny.
Painting Seventeen is the story of Saskia (Kerry Flanagan), age 30, who is painting a portrait of herself at age 17 (Evelyn Spahr). The two women talk about expectations of life and being alone, which is the fate of the 17 year-old in the painting.
The Match stars high school friends, current roommates, and aspiring actors Lance (James O'Brien) and Joel (Will Shaw). Lance has just auditioned for Hamlet, and will base his future career on the result. He finds out he has been cast, while Joel, who ostensibly went to the audition for support, has also gotten a part. Old feuds resurface, such as the condescension from a rich kid to his scholarship-student friend. The two re-enact a high school wrestling match, with surprising results.
Siriously shows Paul (Will Clark) newly single on New Year's Eve happily consulting Siri, his iPhone faux-female assistant, fifteen times a day. His best friend Nick (Will Shaw) is newly engaged to Jackie (Kerry Flanagan) who is precisely the kind of control freak Paul has learned to avoid. Paul looks forward to a healthy relationship with Siri.
I enjoyed Sharon's Shorts very much. As noted in the program, it's easy to see these stories being inspired by real-life events. Who doesn't know a couple who don't know they're not happy? When are the rich not arrogant? As in the dialogue between the 30 year-old painter and her 17 year-old self, we can always see better in hindsight. In particular, the This is Your Life segment was supplemented by writings from the subject's family decades later to create a more empowered character, thus complicating the image of Jews as victims of the Nazis. Director Joanna Strange propels the talented cast to make brief but full dramatic statements which have stayed with me.