The Theatre-Studio Inc. offers aspiring theater artists something incredibly unique in New York City: free space in Midtown. If a play is chosen as part of the TSI/PlayTime Series, it will receive at least two performances free of charge at 750 Eighth Avenue. What this means to the audience, however, is something less exhilarating. TSI provides one of the few spaces south of Manhattan's 110th Street where actors, playwrights, directors, and producers can experiment with their art without cramming a cast of 10 into a roach-infested living room or taking on three more bartending jobs to pay for a black box rental. TSI and producing and artistic director A.M. Raychel are to be commended for that.
In addition to its Main Stage productions, the company offers a PlayTime Series, a year-round offering of various one-act plays that change almost every weekend and are produced with minimal production values.
On May 11, the Series offered three short plays, A Blooming of Ivy by Garry Williams, Feeding Ducks by Lindsay Newitter, and Lost and Found by Denis J. Harrington. It was clear that each piece was just stumbling to its feet as a solid work of theater, but a few redeeming moments in each mollified the spectators.
A Blooming of Ivy was conceived by Indiana-based writer Garry Williams, with Michael Menger at the helm of the 20-minute staging. Letty Serra plays Ivy, a 60-year-old widow who is a strong farm worker and a strong woman, having raised two daughters since her husband's death 20 years ago. Her next-door neighbor, George Thomas, is a feisty widower, and both are struggling with grief and loss. The show explores the possibility of companionship after a long and forgotten absence of it, and offers an Off-Off-Broadway audience a story from outside of the city streets.
Although Serra is an Actors' Equity member who studied with the inimitable Stella Adler, her performance as the proud and lonely Ivy does not reach above mediocre. Yes, the piece is short, but neither actor sufficiently sinks his or her teeth into the part to make this simple and sweet play as full as it yearns to be.
Feeding Ducks is a 15-minute piece, far more esoteric than A Blooming of Ivy. Newitter is a New York-based playwright, and it shows. Her work is sharp and cynical with an absurd bent. The action centers around a duck pond, perhaps in Central Park, where New York characters