nytheatre.com review by David Pumo
April 3, 2005
Emerging Artist Theatre’s semi-annual EATFest is a mixed bag of unrelated short plays presented in a three-series rotating schedule. Festivals of this nature offer a welcome opportunity for writers, directors, and performers to experiment with ideas and genres that might not be easy to sell as full-length plays. As you might expect, some of the eight plays in the festival are more successful than others. All are worthy attempts to push the limits of content.
Series A begins with Foreign Bodies, by Andrew Biss. A couple on a budget vacation in a developing oil nation find themselves in the middle of a culture clash. It’s absurd, sketch comedy with strange, witty twists. Laura Fois as the wife is the evening’s standout performance. The second play, Asteroid Belt, by Lauren Feldman, is both fascinating and disturbing. A college girl is late coming home. As her parents worry about where she might be, she is somehow there in the room with them, unseen, describing the horrible car accident that is happening to her, and that she is unable to stop. It’s an interesting and original idea, well carried out by the writer. The audience is kept on edge from beginning to end. The third play of the evening, Marc Castle’s Invisible, is another sketch comedy piece that takes a simple stereotype and turns it into a clever parody with many laughs. A gay man who has just turned forty finds that he is now literally “invisible” to the twenty-something men he’s been trying to pick up. Later a gay senior shows up and tries to lure him to “the other side.”
Series B starts with Kevin Drzakowski’s A Watched Pot, which takes place in the bathroom of the President of the United States. A global catastrophe is suddenly taking place as the President is in the middle of… well… reading the newspaper. It’s funny, sharp and creative, carried to the extreme. The rest of Series B is the longest play of the series, Ry Herman’s Man On Dog. A young bisexual woman gets involved in a long-term three-way relationship with a couple. There are a few twists later on that make it even stranger. Without giving it all away, this play is like several months of a soap opera all crammed into less than an hour. It starts out as an exploration of an “alternative family structure”—a difficult enough task—but then goes in too many sensational directions to keep any point from getting lost. The play jumps back and forth in time, and is hard to follow because of this. I will also confess that I still haven’t figured out the title.
The short and very amusing Roast Beef and the Rare Kiss by Gregory Fletcher opens Series C. The play begins with the kiss. We then realize that the two people kissing are not a couple, but rather each is part of another couple, and the two couples are spending an evening together at one of their homes. The rest of the play is nervous choreography as the two who kissed try to deal with what they have just done, while their partners bounce in and out of the room, cleaning up after dinner and making popcorn for the movie they rented. There’s a delightful and clever twist at the end. Next up is The Child by Kerri Kochanski. A childless middle-aged couple have their peaceful afternoon interrupted by the sound of a child screaming somewhere nearby. It is a simple piece about the choices we make, and the voices that we hear because of them; the “what ifs” that won’t go away. Sadly, the piece gets cluttered in the middle with unnecessary sidetracks, and the monologue at the end where the woman explains the point of the play is not needed. The final piece, Sheldon Senek’s Twelve Rounds, take the knock-down, drag-out world of heterosexual dating and transposes it to a boxing ring. It is another piece that is perfect for a venue like this; a simple funny idea that is nicely carried out.
The programs are all quite short. B is about 80 minutes, but A is more like 55, and C only 50. Sets, lighting, and costumes are all very simple and sufficient. The festival is not about production value. It’s about new writers, directors and actors—emerging artists—spreading their wings a bit. That’s always fun to watch.