Summer Shorts at the Arsht: A Mixed Bag of Mind-Controlling Cats and Grieving Fathers

Categories: Stage

George Schiavone
Rather than construct a standard-issue theater review for an evening of mirth and brevity that is always anything but standard-issue, I decided to trek through City Theatre's 19th edition of Summer Shorts play by play, in the order in which they are presented. Liberated from the need to excavate overlapping themes and through-lines from this jumbled theatrical stocking, I've scored each piece on its individual merits and demerits, assigning a point value to each production out of a maximum possible ten. The conclusions take into account both the source material and the production quality, beginning with:

1. "Old Flame," by Mira Gibson
Ex-lovers, played by Niki Fridh and David Perez-Ribada, meet in a supermarket aisle an indeterminate time after their split. Both have brought along their new partners (Mary Sansone and Tom Wahl) but remain fundamentally unsatisfied. Director Margaret M. Ledford strikes the proper delicate balance between humor and poignancy; I wanted more time with these characters. Score: 8/10

2. "Halftime," by Richard Dresse.
In this monologue, a middle-school basketball coach (Mcley Lafrance) addresses his team at halftime, but his pep talk quickly gives way to personal baggage involving the coach's career and love life. To the extent that this piece succeeds at all, Lafrance's exuberance is entirely to thank. But his skilled oration can't compensate for a formula that gets old about a minute into the play and trudges inexorably onward. Score: 5/10.

3. "It's the Jews," by John Minigan
Perez-Ribada is a playwright whose labor of love, a Holocaust drama about the bond between a concentration camp guard and inmate, is rejected by a regional theater director (Elizabeth Dimon) on the grounds that it's too Jewish. A dry, deadpan satire about commercial compromise, the play's follow-through doesn't quite match its potential, though the cast clearly enjoys every second of it. Score: 6/10.

4. "The Click," by Leslie Ayvazian
There's always at least one inexplicably chosen head-scratcher each Summer Shorts, and this one fits the bill. Wahl and Irene Adjan are a vacationing couple; it's the latter's birthday, but the former won't stop throwing rocks across a pond in an attempts to will away a shoulder injury. Neither of these fine actors seems particularly invested in material that goes nowhere. Score: 2/10.

5. "Shock and Awww...," by Dan Castellanata and Deb Lacusta
Perez-Ribada brings an adorable kitten to the apartment he shares with Lafrance, but the feline--a stuffed, jet-black puppet--proceeds to hypnotize them and take over the world. Written by two "Simpsons" scribes, the hidden feline agenda of "Shock and Awww..." strikes important satirical points about our distracted Internet populace, but Paul Tei's manic direction borders on the juvenile, letting silliness overtake its raison d'etre. Score: 4/10.

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As the Artistic Director of City Theatre I want to start by saying, "I have no issue with anything stated in this review about the art. Your job is to give your opinion and you are very good at your work. Sometimes it goes my way, sometimes it doesn't."

However, I would like to address a very surprising comment, "An opening-night disturbance involving a patron who briefly lost consciousness led to this play being called before it ended--a drastic overreaction." 

The gentleman in question was unconscious for more than a brief moment and incoherent for quite some time. As Arsht staff ran to respond to what was believed to be a stroke victim and paramedics were called onto the scene, The audience had completely lost attention to the play and focused on the growing shock of people scrambling to get help. It was the final play (my best directing work and art I cared very much about) in what was a long evening with opening night speeches and dedications. I made the decision that getting everyone out was the best decision and that a man's potential life was more valuable than my own short play. The Arsht staff agreed and no-one from Arsht or City has since questioned the decision.

As it turned out, the man did not leave the theatre for more than 20 minutes after help arrived. Fortunately, he was okay and it was a medication issue and the man was alright. Thank God. However, If asked to make this difficult decision over again I would always choose the same choice. If that is an "over-reaction" then so be it.

John Manzelli-City Theatre

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