Entries in Cora and Dave Are Getting Older (1)

Saturday
Jun202015

FROM SIBERIA TO JUST FINE // A THEATRE REVIEW OF EST'S 35TH MARATHON OF ONE-ACT PLAYS SERIES B

BY MATEO MORENO

Big things can indeed come in small packages. That’s the mode of thinking in the yearly MARATHON OF ONE-ACT PLAYS at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Ensemble Studio Theatre, or EST for short, has a lot to brag about these days. They recently received a special Drama Desk Award for their “unwavering commitment to producing new works.” In 2014 their show Year of the Rooster won the 2014 NY Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for a new playwriting debut. And most recently, and most successfully, Hand To God, which premiered originally at EST in October 2014 before moving to an Off-Broadway run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2014, has opened to raves on Broadway and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards. Bragging rights are well deserved. Each summer they put on their Marathon of One-Act Plays and divide them into sections. Here we’ll cover SERIES B which consists of five one acts by five different authors (follow the following links to see my reviews of Series A and Series C).

Emma Goidel’s WE CAN ALL AGREE TO PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED is set in a US government lab in the middle of Siberia. The set up sounds incredibly serious but the layout is much more sit-come esque. Three scientists (Polly Lee, Shyko Amos, Mike Smith Rivera) and a lab supervisor (Jonathan Randell Silver) are all researching climate change. Project leader Liz is plans to put a virus into samples via a dye created by another scientist Maya. Things go awry with a love triangle & comical shenanigans that might feel less forced had it been an actual sitcom on TV. Director Abigail Zealey Bess directs a very game cast and there are strong performances but the play itself seems to be all over the place and the pacing is off. Interesting premise that doesn’t ever pay off.

JOHN, WHO’S HERE FROM CAMBRIDGE by Martyna Majok is and intimate and moving entry, and is supported quite well with unhurried direction from Nick Leavens. John (Gregg Mozgala, delivering a power punch of a performance) is a graduate student born of privilege and needs a caretaker to help out. He has cerebral palsy but his intelligence is vast and his mind is still sharp. Jess (Paola Lázaro-Muñoz), coming from a very different social background, comes in for the caretaker job and the two bond quite well. The piece flows slowly, tenderly, and the dim, beautiful lighting design by Greg MacPherson further bonds the non-showy power of the play. Mozgala is wonderful here, fully embodying a man stricken with cerebral palsy, so much that I for a moment wondered if the actor himself was indeed not acting. Lázaro-Muñoz is fine, though a bit too broad in her intentions. Still, it’s a quiet sucker punch of a play, never leading up to any big reveal other than “life takes turns that we don’t except.” Beautifully written and quietly affecting.

 

 

THE HOUR OF ALL THINGS by Caridad Svich is the only one person piece in the entire Ensemble Studio series. Directed by William Carden (EST’s Artistic Director), Miriam Silverman plays Nic, an ordinary woman who talks to us about her views on “Radical Progressive Politics,” among other things. Her story is laid out in seven “portraits” as she tells us how she broke into tears at a grocery store as everyone stared at her from afar (and the manager spoke to her in a tone “creepily patronizing usually reserved when speaking to misbehaving little children or mildly insane.”). How she counts her steps as she walks around others with “heads bowed down reverently over our gadgets and devices.” She waxes poetically over everyday life, over politics in modern society, or the things our parents taught us. It’s a transfixing piece of writing, and Silverman commands every moment. Perhaps not every moment fully works, or flows evenly, but the overall outcome is stunning. By the end, when Nic tells us a parable of a traveler of little means in a strange land coming upon a creature he grows to understand, The Hour of All Things has delivered a long ranging monologue/play that is simple, messy, and beautiful.

Ending the evening is Julia Cho’s CORA AND DAVE ARE GETTING OLDER. Dawn McGee and Jack Sochet are Cora and Dave, a long married couple getting home from a dinner. Dave lays on the bed, eyes closed, while Cora goes on and on about the dinner and how she envies her friends. At first Dave seems to be only half listening, but he seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it. It layers a real feeling of a couple who know each other so well that they live and breathe each other’s moments. Cora thinks her friends are better versions of them, but in the end, everyone has faults and happiness is so different for everyone. Directed to perfection by Marcia Jean Kurtz, Cora and Dave feels so lived in that you almost feel like you’re peeping into someone’s bedroom, briefly into their actual lives. Both actors are hilarious and heartfelt, and the evening couldn’t have ended on a better note.

 

MATEO'S GRADES: WE CAN ALL AGREE TO PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED: C-, JOHN, WHO’S HERE FROM CAMBRIDGE: B+, THE HOUR OF ALL THINGS: A-, CORA AND DAVE ARE GETTING OLDER: A 

 

Written by: Emma Goidel, Martyna Majok, Caridad Svich, and Julia Cho Directed by: Abigail Zealey Bess, Nick Leavens, William Carden, and Marcia Jean Kurtz. Featuring: Jonathan Randell Silver, Polly Lee, Shyko Amos, Mike Smith Rivera, Paola Lázaro-Muñoz, Gregg Mozgala, Miriam Silverman, Dawn McGee, and Jack Sochet

 

MATEO MORENO recently won a bet on who could hold their breath the longest underwater. He won the bet, having beat local loudmouth Jimmy "Thunderbird" Thomas with a record breaking "fourteen minutes." True, part of that time was him unconscious and the other part was him being revived, but he still counts it, and is now $20 richer. Take THAT Thunderbird! He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.