Anthony J. Piccione
- New York Theatre Critic
As anyone who has ever attended or been part of a night of short one-act plays knows, these things can often be a mixed bag. Only occasionally do all of them shine. That’s been my own personal experience with these types of events, anyway. However, when I had the chance to see The Spring Fling, F*It Club’s annual series of one-act plays, I was thankfully treated to one of the better short play events that I’ve reviewed.
Each year since 2011, F*It Club – founded by producer Allyson Morgan – has presented The Spring Fling with a new title at the end (i.e. “Anniversary”, “Crush”, etc.) and with brand new one-acts around the themes indicated in that year’s title. This year’s offerings – presented in The Spring Fling Chemistry – are a fairly eclectic and entertaining, albeit imperfect, collections of plays presented in an intimate space at the IRT Theater, and with a very fine set design that feels like a leg up from what I’m used to from these events, which I notice tend to be more minimalistic.
Early in the night was the weakest of the plays: Henry by Mario Correa, a short comedy about two exes who reunite accidentally, and end up in the exact sort of awkward conversation that you might expect, for this situation. While Ceci Fernandez and Eric T. Miller do the best they can with the characters they are given, it’s not enough to redeem a play that relies too heavily on cliché, mediocre jokes, as well as – like other short plays, such as this – the natural awkwardness of the situation.
Shortly afterwards came Daniel McCabe’s Snackable Content, named for the exact type of content that is found on “HilariousRandomShit.com”, a Buzzfeed-esque entertainment website that two writers – portrayed by Brett Epstein and Rosanny Zayas – are working for, until one of them decides he’s sick of writing fluff articles for views, and would rather focus more on substantive journalism. This play was an improvement from the last one, and took a surprisingly deep turn toward the end, with a commentary on how so-called “snackable content” brings joy to those who might be in need of it.
Meanwhile, Imperfect and Important – written by Jahna Ferron-Smith, and starring Liz Leimkuler and Dana Scurlock – explores topics regarding the seeming lack of variety in professional theatre, particularly in terms of the narrow opportunities that exist for playwrights of color, and the gap between how white, upper-class society views what types of stories regarding issues of race should be told, and how actual artists of colors view that same topic. This was perhaps the most thought-provoking and dramatic of the plays, and while I obviously can’t relate to being a black, female playwright like the central character in this play, I can certainly sympathize with those who think that more variety and originality – in terms of the stories being told in professional theatre – is desperately needed, and I applaud this play for shining a light on this topic.
Then came Cost/Benefit by Jon Kern. Second only to Mr. Correa’s play, this was close to being the worst play of the night. Featuring Monica Gonzales, Emma Kikue, Paula Pizzi, Cesar J. Rosado and Lori Vega, this satirical piece about issues of consent and relationships jumps from one mediocre scene to another, with most of the humor falling flat along the way. The only highlight of this place that stands out is a silly bit where one of the characters plays a game of “hangman” with her partner, toward the end.
As one could guess from the title of the next play, The Verjeena – written by Mara Nelson-Greenberg and featuring Alton Alburo and Dawn Evans – explores the topics of sex education, and how some boys may be getting inaccurate and inappropriate views on the opposite sex from society, particularly from their fathers, as Mr. Alburo’s character demonstrates with both his simple-minded characterization of vaginas, as well as his apparent approach to getting women to do what he wants. While some of the dialogue feels repetitive, to the point where it loses some of its comedic value, it’s nonetheless a humorous commentary on some serious issues regarding consent, gender and misogyny.
The last play of the night was Amy Staats’ Detention – featuring Adam Langdon, Allyson Morgan, Emma Kikue, Emma Orme, and Federico Rodriguez – which explores the ethical issues of student/teacher relationships in a comedic fashion. While this play felt like it went by quickly, perhaps that’s a testament to how well-written it is, as I thought this was a relatively strong piece to end the show with.
The play with the most creative concept, however, was Contemplation by Erica Saleh. Featuring Mara Kassin and Richard Prioleau, this play is performed in portions during the transitions between the other six plays, and tells the story of how a young woman urges her boyfriend to download her new favorite app: a nihilistic, Siri-esque bot that encourages the phone’s owner to contemplate one’s own death, on a regular basis. Although, as much as I liked the play, I personally thought it was an odd decision to split this play up, considering that it’s not as if it’s much shorter or longer than any of the other plays. I wouldn’t have minded just seeing it performed in its entirety, from beginning to end.
Again, while this collection of one-acts isn’t without its weak spots, it is nonetheless filled with both funny dialogue – and occasionally some thought-provoking moments – that make it worth seeing. There are still a few more nights left to catch these plays, so if you’re a fan of silly, and sometimes raunchy, romantic comedy, than you should especially consider coming out to the IRT Theater to check out this production.
“The Spring Fling Chemistry” – presented by F*It Club – runs at the IRT Theater from May 3-13th. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/effitclub.