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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Summer Shorts
City Theatre Also see Jeffrey's review of Re-Designing Women


City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts present the 19th Annual City Theatre's Summer Shorts: America's Short Play Festival. This glamorous evening of short plays - many of which are world premieres - is anxiously awaited each year in Miami. Glamorous is indeed the right word to describe the evening in store which is presented as a sort of fashion show. The entire theatre is decorated as if for a fashion week unveiling, with the stage it's run way. Hip-hop dancers entertain to the throbbing beat of music after each of the 10 plays as the stage is quickly reset for the next one. Music and excitement fill the air before even the first line is spoken. An off-stage voice announces each of the plays cleverly tying the style of the piece to a style of fashion. Ten plays - seven actors - ninety minutes.

All techno music and glamour aside, what does this year's Summer Shorts hold? With a team of talented and versatile actors, and some of the area's finest directors and designers, this year is a solid success. There are surely theatrical moments of humor, insight, and tenderness that are the equivalent to fashion "dos" alongside the fashion "don'ts".

One of the funniest plays of the night is Richard Dresser's Halftime in which a middle school basketball coach (Lafrance) gives a lengthy, halftime pep-talk to his seemingly pitiful team. In the midst of his attempts to boost their morale however he continually gets sidetracked by recalling the awkward state of ruins that is his own personal life. Lafrance is refreshing in his handling of this hilarious monologue.

Paul Rudnick's My Husband was previously seen in 2012 at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of . In the face of the legalization of gay marriage, the well-meaning Jewish mother of an adult gay man, allows her competitive nature to one-up her friends by fabricating a fiancée for her son. Adjan and Perez-Ribada are delightful as mother and son. Rudnick's patter is playful and his style is polished. This play is obviously the work of an accomplished playwright.

An understated moment of tenderness is found in Arlitia Jones' Tornado. It is the story of a man who enters a sporting wear shop in search of a football uniform for his young son. After a fairly jovial exchange with the store owner, he finally divulges that his son has passed away that morning, and he just wishes to buy something for a son that was too sick to ever have played sports to place in his coffin. It is a beautifully acted moment by Wahl as the grief-stricken father.

Mira Gibson's Old Flame is am entertaining tale of two old lovers who cross paths in a grocery store one day. It has the feel of a movie scene or sitcom about it, and all of the characters (played by Fridh, Perez-Ribada, Wahl and Sansone) actually have the potential to hold our interest in learning more about them. It is always a compliment to want more of the characters after the scene is done.

John Minigan's It's The Jews is the story of an aspiring playwright and the artistic director of a theatre negotiating desired script changes. The play get's bogged down in the gimmick of speech patterns and pacing to the point of missing the mark of the comedy of the piece. Similarly the play The Click by Leslie Ayvazian, which is the story of a husband and wife working through his physical injury, lays flat without going anywhere. It may be meant to be an astute observation of marital communication issues, but it never captures our interest enough to care about the characters.

The Scottish Play by Theo Reyna aspires to political commentary with an absurdist twist. Despite the accent work and the quirky characters particularly well done by Dimon and Wahl, is a lot of bluster saved by the talents of the actors.

Make John Patrick Shanley Go Home by Holli Harms is the only play of the evening in which this very talented group of actors may have missed the mark. The three female characters really feel like they should be played Italian with a touch of Jersey Shore. The actors just never quite get there, and feel much more Boca Raton than they should. It left some of the comedic moments not fully explored

I suppose in every collection of plays there is one that just doesn't seem to fit. In this year's Summer Shorts offering it is Shock and Awww by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta. This ridiculous story of two roommates and terrestrial cats whose mission is to take over the world comes off like it was written by two stoned college roommates. The actors' commitment was complete as they immerse themselves in the silliness of the moment. Perez-Ribada and Lafrance really pull out all the stops to make this as funny as it can be. Unfortunately I couldn't wait for it to be over, and frankly felt such a poorly written play did not belong in a collection as admirable as Summer Shorts. But part of the very nature of the excitement of Summer Shorts is like sorting through a gift bag of toys, selecting favorites and putting aside less favorite ones. Here is hoping that next year's Summer Shorts is every bit as exciting as this year's!

The Plays & Playwrights:
Tornado by Arlitia Jones
Old Flame by Mira Gibson
Make John Patrick Shanley Go Home by Holli Harms
It's The Jews by John Minigan
The Click by Leslie Ayvazian
Halftime by Richard Dresser
My Husband by Paul Rudnick
Shock and Awww by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta
The Scottish Play by Theo Reyna
Joshua Consumed An Unfortunate Pear by Steve Yockey

The Actors:
Irene Adjan*: Maria, Sharon, Gabrielle
Tom Wahl*: Shaun Locker, Henry, Matt, UK, Josua
Elizabeth Dimon*: Regina, Stephanie Moffelese, Scotland, Death
David Perez-Ribada*: Jack, Arny Siber, Michael, Patrick
Niki Fridh: Hannah, Izzy, Oil, Amelia
Mcley Lafrance: Jason, Coach, Stewart, America
Mary Sansone: Sophia

The Designers:
Directors: Margaret M. Ledford, John Manzelli, Paul Tei, Ricky J. Martinez, Mcley Lafrance
Choreography: Sandra Portal- Andreu
Scenic Design: Jodi Dellaventura
Lighting Design: Preston Bircher
Sound Design: Matt Corey
Costume Design: Ellis Tillman
Stage Manager: Brandy DeMil*

The Crew:
Matt Deis, Jovan Kala Hannah, Audrey Polinski, Patricia Henry, Victor Rodriguez, Willy Leiva, Leo Davis

City Theatre's Summer Shorts appeared June 12 - July 6, 2014, on the newly dedicated Susan Westfall Playwrights Stage of the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The Adrienne Arsht Center is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Major and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. It also receives generous support from private and corporate contributions to the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami through it's Membership Program, the City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Dade Community Foundation, The MAP-Fund, the State of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Arsht is located at 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida, and houses the 2,400 seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, as well as the 2,200 seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, and the 300 seat Carnival Studio Theater. For information, or to purchase tickets for the many diverse offering of the Adrienne Arsht Center, you may contact them at 305-949-6722, or visit them online at www.arshtcenter.org.

*Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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