- OnStage Chief New York Theatre Critic
Playwright James Hindman invited a group of playwrights to write short scenes all set in Watkins Glen, New York in a roadside motel that – although it might have “seen better days” – is still frequented by those looking for some semblance of self, by those looking to get married, by those looking for “something new,” and by those who for one reason or another might just be passing by. The result is the new play “The Gorges Motel” currently running at FringeNYC 2016. The individual playwrights shared their work and the resulting piece has the feel of somehow being “woven together” without the scenes necessarily depending upon one another. The parts work as well separately as they do in concert.
Mr. Hindman’s “Missing” – Parts I, II, and III – frames the work and sets the context for the remaining six plays. Because of their brevity, these scenes require actors who are able to quickly develop characters with recognizable conflicts and who have the ability to establish setting with alacrity. Under Chris Goutman’s steady and generous direction, the cast of seven handle these tasks with exceptional craft and flexibility. For example, Dustin Charles’s Robert in “Missing – Part I – is barely recognizable as the Greg in “Here Comes the Drone.” And Amanda Sykes brings individuality and charm to her characters Wendy in “Kissing Cousins” and Kayla in “Here Comes the Drone.”
Brevity sometimes weakens the scenes. There are times the audience is not so much left wanting more than it is wondering, “what else could I have done with those five minutes?” Overall, however, the scenes are interesting, provocative, and worth seeing.
Standing out are Craig Pospisil’s “Kissing Cousins” and Gretchen Cryer’s “Breckenridge.” In “Kissing Cousins,” two sisters discover they both have slept with the groom – Dani (Jody Flader) their mutual friend’s bridesmaid slept with him recently, and sister Wendy (Amanda Sykes) experienced a similar tryst years ago back in school. Ms. Flader and Ms. Sykes have impeccable comedic timing and play the discovery and processing of the unexpected information with great skill. Ryan Wesley Gilreath is their competent and equally funny straight man.
In “Breckenridge,” Terry the handsome motel maintenance man (Brian Sheridan) arrives in Penelope’s (Ilene Kristen) Unit to unclog her plumbing so she can stay a while and get some work done. Penelope has been waiting a long time for her Odysseus and her patience has just about run out! Terry and his collection of tools is just the ticket to end of Penelope’s pining and the two actors make this unlikely tryst completely likable. Ms. Cryer’s script is perhaps the most developed and her writing is rich in tropes and authentic characterization.
Cynthia Mace is the consummate “eccentric motel proprietor” and provides the necessary “glue” to hold the play together from disclosing here painful secrets, to welcoming an estranged brother Robert (Dustin Charles) as the guest in the unnumbered Unit 22, to letting us gather our collective and disparate catharses together as she welcomes us – as she always has over the years – to the Watkins Glen laser show.
A visit to the “The Gorges Motel” will not disappoint. Just be sure to book a spot before it closes for the season on August 27.
THE GORGES MOTEL
“The Gorges Motel” is presented by The New York International Fringe Festival and Schondeikkan Productions and Miracle or Two Productions in association with The Journey Company at The Player’s Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street (between West 3rd and Bleecker).
For more information about the show including performance dates, the cast, and creative team, please visit http://gorgesmoteltheplays.com/. For more information about the 20th Annual New York Fringe Festival visit www.FringeNYC.org. Running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes without intermission.