Summer Shorts & Other Literary Briefs
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 5, 2008
There's lots of free outdoor theatre in New York City every summer; did you know that there's some that happens indoors as well? This month, Xoregos Performing Company is presenting a delightful evening of plays and poetry in public libraries all around Manhattan. The show runs a bit longer than an hour, leaving you plenty of time to fill out your afternoon or night with complimentary activities. It's family friendly, entirely appropriate for children (and a great way to introduce them to the glories of drama and verse). And, as I mentioned, tickets don't cost a cent.
The program is deliciously eclectic. For me, the real treat on the bill is the world premiere (!) of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short comedy from 1922, Porcelain and Pink. Director Shela Xoregos explained to me after the show that this piece, published in Tales of the Jazz Age, looks on paper almost like a short story rather than a play and perhaps for that reason has never been performed. It's a charmer, about a pair of sisters fighting over bathtub time, for—we discover—an exceptionally good reason. The dialogue is brisk and smart and funny, just what you'd expect from the author of The Great Gatsby. And the twist at the end is nifty, even if you can probably guess at it before it comes.
The Proposal by Anton Chekhov, which begins the show, is every bit the equal of Porcelain and Pink, and especially if you don't know this tasty little human comedy you'll find much to savor in it here. It's about a very nervous young man who comes to propose to the daughter of his next-door neighbor...but he keeps getting derailed by their vehement disagreements. The gently satirical ending anticipates the regret-tinged existences of the characters in Chekhov's more famous full-length pieces. This taut one-act is simply hilarious, because it knows so much about human nature.
Sandwiched between the Russian and American comedies is a Beckettian tragicomedy by Nigerian-American playwright Ade Ademola, Silence of the Land. This concerns a pair of down-on-their-luck gentlemen on a park bench debating a variety of subjects. They're eventually defined mostly by their inertia, however, recalling the famous tramps of Waiting for Godot.
Xoregos moves the action of all three pieces skillfully and briskly, filling the transitions between the plays with lively recitations of poems from a variety of sources, from e.e. cummings to Alexander Pushkin. These intermediate segments remind us of the freshness and innate theatricality of verse, something we don't get to appreciate very often in public performance nowadays.
A hard-working company of six actors performs all three plays: Andrew R. Cooksey and Jesse Kearney do double duty (the former plays the father in The Proposal and one of the men in Silence of the Land; Kearney plays the other man in Silence and a surprise visitor in Porcelain and Pink). Aubrie Therrien and Kate Reynolds are fun as the squabbling sisters in the Fitzgerald. And Trina Mar Shumsonk and (especially) Aaron David Kapner do fine work as the would-be lovers in the Chekhov. Abetting these are M. Alan Haley and Ayanna Wiltshire, who make guest appearances in the poetic interludes.
Finally, a special mention must be made of Carla Gant's costumes, especially for Porcelain and Pink: her work proves, as if it needed proving, that unbridled imagination is the only resource we ever need to make memorable theatre. Kudos to her and Xoregos Performing Company for sharing this pleasing evening of theatrics with a broad audience all over town.