2010 Horror Festival
nytheatre.com review by Andrew Rothkin
October 7, 2010
A woman's fleshy toil for her husband's meaty cravings....
A love potion that works a great deal much too well....
A girl's hellish face-off with a bugged-out, bug-eyed boogeyman....
These are just a few of the tricks and treats of Week I of Shortened Attention Span's 2010 Horror Festival. This theatrical grab-bag contains an assortment of scrumptious confections, a cluster of nutty surprises, and an occasional sour apple—but even the tartest of these fruits was edible, without rot, worms, or razorblades.
Will Snider's Greyhound was the most even piece of the evening, melding sparkling dialogue, assured direction, and sound acting. Alice Mottola and Sarah Hartmann ping-ponged the dialogue back and forth while retaining strong characters and underlying truth, slowly unfolding their circumstances and the mystery of "the man." Extra kudos to Sarah Hartmann, who also directed; she understands less is more, and her staging was simple and effective. Though the piece needs a stronger ending, Greyhound made a fine piece of theatre.
Jerome Martin Schwartz's Visitation Rites also combined excellent writing with high-quality direction. An ex-couple, Sol and Peggy, come to a hotel room after many years apart to meet with the adult sons they gave up for adoption. The piece intertwines comedy, drama, mystery, and horror in a delightful way that kept me guessing, although I was confused by (and felt shortchanged by) the abrupt ending; I urge the creators to rethink how this otherwise well-built piece concludes. Alan Gilbert did some fine work as a Sol, but Lorraine Serabian was one of the high points of the night. As Peggy, Serabian was soft as a marshmallow, hard as a jawbreaker, alternating between ferocious and vulnerable, hysterical and profound, and proving without any doubt that being fierce and vibrant and full of sex appeal is not just for the under-40 set!
J. Boyett's Love Stinks was perhaps the most mixed bag of all. A love triangle, of the Halloween variety, ensues when a couple comes to visit an old friend, a dabbler of magic potions. The man in the relationship is everything a woman could possibly want, filled with love and praise and attention beyond measure. Then again, too much of a good thing can be maddening! Love Stinks had a lot of fun ideas, but Kathryn McConnell's direction was clunky, overshadowing the other elements. The three tables covered with cloths and Wiccan-like bottles were attractive, but their configuration kept the actors locked in odd patterns that got in the way of the story. What's more, the actors seemed to be searching for a style: Gus Ferrari was very low-key as the man magically maddened into obsessive love, while Jessica Vera was quite over the top—with character glasses that would look clownish from the last row of a Broadway balcony. Kelly Kay Griffith, as the vengeful potions-lender, fared the best of the three, displaying truthful moments within a grounded character.
Adriana Spencer and Erin E. McGruff's A Cougar's Tale was good, sexy fun delivered by a good, sexy, fun cast. The Cougar picks up The Prey in a bar, then brings him back to her place for some libidinous frolicking and fun—and a very big surprise. The actors did commendable work: Tara Casatuta as the sensual woman on the make, Max Carpenter as the horny man who is in for the shock of his life, and especially Geoffrey Pomeroy as The Husband, a man of particular fancies and tastes. Co-writer Spencer also does some lovely, understated work as the bartender. In the hands of director Erin E. McGruff, A Cougar's Tale is titillating bad-ass fun. I laughed and enjoyed it. What the direction lacked was specificity. Had the staging and props been used to tell a story (rather than for cheap laughs) and had the actors been directed to truly go for what their characters wanted with laser-beam focus (rather than general washes), the piece would have been elevated beyond a funny, erotic sketch to a more cohesive, more effective black comedy. Then again, some people prefer sketch comedy.
The final piece of the evening, John DiBenedetto's Lizzie Bugs Boogie, reveals a confrontation in hell between a little girl—I think—and The Boogeyman. While this piece had some fun ideas, it was a shapeless, repetitive meditation on... well... maybe you can tell me. I would love to know what DiBenedetto was going for here—perhaps some hellish landscape in the realm of Waiting for Godot or No Exit. These classics of the absurd, however, no matter how seemingly random, are very well constructed, and their "meaningless" adds up to meaning. I encourage the writer to decide what it is he wants to say with this piece, liberally hack off two thirds of the excess (any hatchet or chainsaw will do), and form what is left into a concrete, coherent story. What his writing did best was create a fascinating acting showcase for himself. On stage, he was funny and riveting, scary and fun to watch. Until DiBenedetto develops a fleshed-out logical play, his impressive acting gifts deserve better material.
Shortened Attention Span's 2010 Horror Festival makes for an entertaining evening of theatre. Go catch the spooky fun—and vote for your favorite plays, in order of your first favorite to your fifth favorite. Weeks II and III are fast approaching, each with a unique set of weird and eerie shorts.