The Spring Fling: 8 Brand New Plays
nytheatre.com review by Kimberly 'Sparkle' Stewart
April 21, 2011
The F*It Club thinks you should have a Spring Fling and they have come up with an enjoyable invitation in this entertaining night of 8 short plays. With only a couple of exceptions, the night moves quickly from play to play and doesn’t overstay its welcome with any one story. It gave me an appetizing taste of some gifted writers, actors, and directors, and kept me engaged and interested throughout much of the evening.
The best of the night for me was the strongly written and performed piece Drunk, by Bekah Brunstetter. In an office where drinking is definitely allowed, the unspoken secrets burble between officemates Mimi and Jen just beneath the booze. Morgan Reis’s performance as Mimi captures the brittle and selfish single adult who is lost for purpose outside of the office. However, I wish she would have shared more of her character’s feelings for her officemate. Ali Ahn’s dry delivery is pitch-perfect with the zingers the script hands her, and yet ultimately touching when she reveals the loneliness that those zingers cover. Allyson Morgan adds appropriately inappropriate comic relief as a newcomer to the office.
Sara Buffamanti as Sylvia in Ashlin Halfnight's The Short, Sad Biography of the Magician’s Assistant is an attention-grabber in this not-quite-together piece. Sylvia is a driven-to-succeed assistant whose lifelong pursuit of success has sent her careening across the country and onto reality TV. Told in many short vignettes, some under a minute, the script felt weighted down and hampered by the mini-scenes. Laura Savia’s inventive attempt to connect these short scenes with staged transitions at first works, but ultimately fails. The problem isn’t the transitions, it's the sheer volume of realistic props employed in the vignettes. The setup for some scenes is twice the length of the scene that follows. It is a credit to Buffamanti’s energy and investment that I was drawn back to watch her in both the transition and scenes. The naturalism of the props versus the surrealism of the style didn’t work and ultimately that caused the piece to fall flat.
Victor Moag’s surprising direction adds to the humor of Come Here, a “naughty little play” by Isaac Oliver about a married couple and their single male friend’s homemade porn on an adult version of YouTube. There is obviously some highly sexual content and it feels wrong that it doesn’t conclude the evening. The story has a strong masculine perspective on love, as does Mark Schultz's We Have the Music, the story of a guy who takes a job to get the girl. Joseph Midyett as Stuart is personable and in the moment as an actor who might do anything at anytime.
Set and prop designer Sarah Martin’s set agilely makes the switch from a bar to an office, or a bedroom to a grocery store. It completely utilizes the stage area, which is lined with two rows of seating on one side of the stage. (Most of the directors appear to have staged with this in mind, though a couple of stagings play more to the larger section of the audience.) I was not as impressed with the choices regarding dressing and props. During the first act, some props and dressing were placed at the start of the act. This is somewhat distracting as both a bar and an office have corn on their walls. Yet, the corn isn’t nearly enough when it’s indicated to represent a cornfield on the Queens County Farm in Minotaur Scavenger Hunt.
Minotaur Scavenger Hunt, by Caroline V. McGraw, was the play I felt least connected with during the evening. A love story of two Queens County farm workers, I still am at a loss as to what that story was. Sympathetically and gently played by both actors, this piece felt too obscure to make much sense. Interestingly, while the actors created much of their environment and experiences, the cornfield and night sky were more literally represented. This felt false and untheatrical in comparison.
Three of the plays are simply enjoyable and enjoyably played. All three had a strong moment that won me over. In Anna Ziegler's If, the main characters share a memorable and comedic kiss as they explain and reexperience their entire relationship. Simply and beautifully staged by Lila Neugebauer, French Toast and Parsley by Brooke Berman is about a woman who might be pregnant and her loving boyfriend’s need for brunch. In it, Stephen Graybill suggests both love and security, stretched across a bed or entwined around his girlfriend. During Greg Keller's Our Trip to Ohio, the story of a woman who travels home with her boyfriend, a question turns an entire relationship ending argument on its side. While I’m not sure I believed where it went from that moment, the moment between actors David Ross and Amanda Sayle was riveting.
Overall, it was a highly enjoyable night of theater. F*It Club is right, you do deserve a Spring Fling.