For many New Yorkers, the summertime experience is not complete without a trip outside the city. Getting away from the crowds and the noise and seeing water can be a powerful restorative, even for those who thrive on the aforementioned hustle and bustle. But if your bank account (or boss) says "no" to your vacation plans, consider joining Impetuous Theater Group for a pleasant evening poolside at Swim Shorts 3: Are You In? High atop the Holiday Inn Midtown, with skyscrapers and setting sun as a backdrop, five short plays are presented by a youthful, attractive cast. The shows in July are different from the ones in August, as are the writers, directors, and actors. In the July series, the writers tackled suicide, double-crossing friends, starvation, infidelity, and the Cold War, but all in a lighthearted, semi-serious way.
"Joe the Lifeguard" starred the titular whistle-bedecked hotel employee as he first ignored, then tried to save, a distraught woman from trying to drown herself under his watch. It's a troublesome premise for a sketch, as self-annihilation is a conceit that, when used, must be acted upon, much like the rule about guns onstage having to be fired by the end of a play. The audience members don't want a character's actions to be thwarted, and yet they don't want someone to kill herself either. However, as this is a 10-minute comedic short and not 'Night, Mother, things resolve themselves, comedically though awkwardly, toward the end.
The pool is a stand-in for quicksand in "Forgiveness," as one man (Herb) jumps willingly into the muck and then pulls another man (Steve) in with him in order to talk. Herb and Steve's literal quagmire is also a literary one, as the script doesn't give these two-dimensional characters enough motivation for their ridiculous actions, or legitimate conversation, or even a reason for being anywhere near quicksand in the first place. If Mallory, the guardian angel, didn't appear in full costume later on, the piece could pass for a meandering bit of improv. (Someone should add "pit of quicksand" to "the moon" and "Hell" as another classic example of a bad location to set an improv scene.)
"Jettison" pits man against the elements as three men (Steve, Bob, and Gary) struggle to stay alive in a lifeboat after their ship sinks. The casually coarse dialogue and the personalities of the guys give a semblance of realism to the situation, even as their lifeboat is tethered to the pool's ladders. It's a sad and amusing piece.
In "A Proverbial Affair," the audience is back at a hotel pool as vacationers Kent and Diane meet the sensual body-piercer Nino. While Kent is offended by the free-spirited Cuban, his fiancée Diane begins to shed her Virginia-bred conservative veneer and gets back in touch with her buried Caribbean roots. There is a campy sense of fun in the piece, and it was enjoyable for the audience to be acknowledged as other poolside guests during the scene.
The best of the shorts ("Der Eisbar") had the most fantastical use of the pool: it doubled as the cold waters of the Arctic during the 1980s. American sub meets Russian sub meets German sub—all of them a few feet long and pushed by two actors sporting the costumes and accents of their countrymen. The story was clever, the jokes were funny, and the performances were strong—especially that of the blond actress playing Viktoronov, whose accent was as dense as a frat boy in a Smirnoff-induced stupor.
Of course, if the shows and the atmosphere aren't enough to relax you, an extra $7 for a post-show swim (or a visit to the bar) might just do the trick. It's not the Hamptons, but an elevator trip up 10 floors beats being stuck in traffic on Long Island. Maybe all of those tourists currently flooding Times Square had it right all along.