Part of the beauty of live theater is that, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, the performance is different from show to show. No Tea's production of Plucking Failures Like Ripe Fruit takes the variance present in live performance to the next level. Moments prior to the show's beginning, members of the audience pluck six ten minute play titles out of a jar (out of a total selection of ten plays), ensuring that each night will vary, not only in terms of the actor's energy and ability to properly say their lines, but also in terms of the content and the tone of the piece. On the evening the show was reviewed, the plays presented were: “Anything for You” by Cathy Celesia, “A Day for Surprises” by John Guare, “Request Stop” by Harold Pinter, “Cold” by David Mamet, “1-900-DESPERATE” by Christopher Durang, “Miss You” by David Auburn, and “Sure Thing” by David Ives. Your experience will be totally different, though, given the randomness of the play's selection and performance order.
The performers are all eager and for the most part, full of energy to tackle whatever plays the evening may throw their way. However, “Anything for You” started the night off on a low energy note. Two woman, best friends, meet for dinner. Lynette drops a bit of a bomb on her friend Gail: she wants to have an affair. And she doesn't want to have an affair with another man, she wants to Gail to sleep with her. Gail tries to act flabbergasted, however, the energy emitted by the two actresses never quite reached the point where Gail was truly shocked by Lynette's proposition. The actors were limited by remaining seated at a dining table for the duration of the play. The play's ending was also open-ended; the ten minute framework didn't provide it with room to come to a conclusion to the women's problem.
However, things quickly picked up and remained up with the evening's second play, “A Day for Surprises.” One of the lions in front of the 42nd Street library comes alive, walks into the library and eats one of the librarians, leaving two extremely dorky librarians left to ponder the meaning of love and life together. Jeremy Mather is hilarious as Mr. Falanzano, a librarian heartbroken after his librarian love is eaten by the lion. Mather physically throws himself across the stage in torment as he describes his and the deceased librarian's well-read love affair. Meanwhile, Alicia Barnatchez listens as Miss Jepson, another socially awkward librarian. The two are undeniably sweet as two lonely bookworms trying to reach each other after a rather silly tragedy.
Two of the plays, “1-900-DESPERATE” and “Miss You” feature sad, bored people spending their evenings talking on phones, either to a dating hotline or to their husband, of whom they've grown tired. The use of phones in performance can be tricky, yet the director, Lindsey Moore, has arranged the cast onstage into nice stage pictures, so that while the action may be minimal, the view is still a treat for the eyes.
The theme of Plucking Failures Like Ripe Fruit is failure at love, and the plays depict the commonality of human loneliness in a delightfully plucky manner. The arrangement of plays on the evening I saw the show caused it to end on a delightfully high note, suggesting that although love is tough and rife with failure and loss, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The last play was David Ives' “Sure Thing,” where a man and woman meet in a cafe and, with the help of a dinging bell, get to keep trying to make their first meeting just right.
However, the charm of the concept is that this uplifting experience was for this night and this audience only; the next time the show is performed, the selection and arrangement might make for a completely downer evening. But no matter, the quality of the acting and the directing will make Plucking Failures Like Ripe Fruit an enjoyable night of theater whether the arrangement is uplifting or not.