Off-Broadway Review: “Summer Shorts 2016 - Series B at 59E59 Theaters

Off-Broadway Review: “Summer Shorts 2016 - Series B at 59E59 Theaters

David Roberts

  • OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic

“BLACK FLAG” – Written by Idris Goodwin and Directed by Logan Vaughn

The success of Detroit native Deja’s (Suzette Azariah Gunn) freshman year depends – as it always does for every first-year college student – on having a congenial roommate. Her Facebook conversations with that roommate Georgia native Sydney (Francesca Carpanini) have gone well as does the initial “in the flesh” meeting in their shared dorm room. Deja is even happy with Sydney’s choice of the side of the room away from the door – the prime spot. Everything continues to go well until Sydney (who is white) unpacks her Confederate Flag and proceeds to hang it above her bed. Deja (who is black) is less than comfortable with the new wall hanging.

Despite Sydney’s protestations about the flag representing her “culture,” the flag obviously bothers Deja yet she still tries to be accommodating telling Sydney, it’s “your side of the room.” Deja’s discomfort and her roommate’s inability to understand how the flag is inherently offensive is the conflict that drives “Black Flag’s” plot. The tension mounts when an inebriated Sydney stumbles in on Deja making out with her Korean-American boyfriend Harry (Ruy Iskandar) who challenges Sydney about her racist past and present.

A possible breakthrough comes in January of the Spring Semester when Sydney returns to campus with a confession about a family gathering at Stone Mountain that has resulted in her understanding of why the flag is offensive and why it needs to come down.  Yet the flag does not come down and exactly why structures the resolution of this short play.

All three actors develop their characters with authenticity and, under Logan Vaughn’s direction, bring Mr. Goodwin’s script to a successful level of believability. Though the conflicts might seem predictable and facile, the subject matter is of utmost importance.

“QUEEN” – Written by Alexander Dinelaris and Directed by Victor Slezak

Inspired by the heavyweight playwright Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Woman Who Came at Six O’Clock,” “Queen” is a lightweight short play that never really makes it off the ground. It takes approximately one minute to figure out why Queen (Casandera M.J. Lollar), a regular at Joe’s (Saverio Tuzzolo) café, insists Joe confirm she entered the café not at her usual six o’clock but rather at five forty-five. Alexander Dinelaris does not give the actors enough to work with and, despite a set replete with freshly prepared food, cloth napkins, and shiny flatware, the action falls flat and the audience is left wondering, “Why?” Police detective Mike’s (Chris McFarland) entrance and Joe’s dramatic moment in the spotlight are superfluous in this flimsy offering.

“THE DARK CLOTHES OF NIGHT” Written by Richard Alfredo and Directed by Alexander Dinelaris

College film professor Rob (Dana Watkins) – like many others – lives a double life: one “real” the other “imaginary.” His dreary teaching life includes a loveless marriage with Sylvie (Sinem Meltem Dogan) who wants to establish an exit strategy and a disgruntled student Emily (Ms. Dogan) who wants to drop his class. Rob’s “fantasy” life is his “identification” (psychological and emotional) with Film Noir Private Eye Burke Sloan and Femme Fatale Delilah Twain (Ms. Dogan). Is He Rob or is he Burke? Think “American Psycho” off steroids and on sedatives. The film noire scenes – interspersed with the “real life” scenes – are filled with period humor, double entendre, and enough sexism to last a lifetime. The whole endeavor seems endless and could be shortened by half. However, the audience seemed to adore every minute and stay engaged throughout the penny dreadful (not the Showtime series) “double bill.”

SUMMER SHORTS: SERIES B

SUMMER SHORTS is presented by Throughline Artists (J.J. Kandel, Producing Director) and runs through Sunday, September 3. The general performance schedule is Tuesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM, Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM & 7:15 PM.  For individual performance dates for Series A and Series B, download the calendar at http://www.59e59.org/calendar.php. Single tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 Members). A Pair of Shorts (a ticket to both Series A & B) is $40 (available until August 17). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission.

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