A Pirandellian lark and two plays with feminist concerns constitute Summer Shorts (Series A), the invaluable annual presentation of one-acts at 59E59th Street Theaters by Throughline Artists.
Tennessee Williams’s 1945 breakout play, The Glass Menagerie, takes place in “memory,” as the brooding narrator/protagonist Tom announces at the start. In Austin Pendleton and Peter Bloch’s production at the Wild Project, Tom’s memories not only haunt the character but literally haunt the entire production with an array of spooky stage effects, which lay a chill on the evening that only the playwright’s poetry can defrost.
Playwrights Horizons is currently housing an unexpected thing in New York City: conservatives openly discussing their beliefs. And liberal New Yorkers are, and should be, flocking to it. Providing a respite from the shock-jock conservatism of Donald Trump and Fox News, Will Arbery’s new play Heroes of the Fourth Turning puts Catholic conservatism onstage in all of its messiness and nuance, daring its audience to listen to what the other side has to say—and maybe even making them care about the characters doing the talking.
Liba Vaynberg’s Round Table is a small play with huge aspirations. Focusing on a pair of nerdy lovers who meet through an online dating app, Vaynberg’s work is at heart a sentimental and sweet romantic comedy. Interspersed throughout, however, are scenes inspired by the legend of King Arthur as well as monologues that break the fourth wall to address heady quandaries about unrequited love, self-idealization, and mortality. To the credit of the winning cast and fleet direction, the intimate production at 59E59 Theaters does not collapse under its own ungainliness.
If Jack Kerouac was the epitome of 1950s beat culture, road-tripping his way across America, then the photographer W. Eugene Smith might just have been his stationary counterpart, discovering jazz, drugs, and artistry in the squalid comfort of his own home. Jaymes Jorsling, in his ambitious and at times stunning new play, (A)loft Modulation, unleashes Smith’s story from linear time, changes the names to poeticize the innocent, and blasts it full of jazz, all the while exploring what it means to be an American, and what it means, simply, to be.
Runboyrun and In Old Age, by Mfoniso Udofia, a master at wordplay, capture the power of letting go of the past. The two plays are part of Udofia’s nine-part cycle that focuses on several generations of Nigerian immigrants who have settled in America. In Runboyrun and In Old Age, a catharsis occurs when the truth is revealed, and characters meet this new feeling with both hope and sadness.