Off Broadway Reviews
Since 1999, Emerging Artists Theatre has been presenting the semi-annual EATFest Short Play Festival, finding a home this year at United Stages. The three programs, Series A, B, and C, are performed in rotating groups. Series A is made up of three plays, My Boyfriend's Wife, The Marketing Plan, and The End of the Party. Each play in this evening is around ten to twenty minutes, making for a relatively short night, but luckily each play manages to accomplish its dramatic goal within its allotted time.
The first, My Boyfriend's Wife, puts a spin on the conventional confrontation between the wife and girlfriend of the same manthat is, the meeting takes place when the girlfriend comes to place flowers on the wife's grave. Carol Monda puts up a pleasant façade of the desperate and insecure current girlfriend who will never be able to live up to the memory of the woman beloved by all. Her Dodie is both blunt and flustered, confused to have entered into a dialogue with a dead woman but eager to demand answers about how to claim her boyfriend's undivided attention. Raina, played by Wynne Anders, calmly deflects Dodie's accusations and pleas, insisting that her husband is not governed under her control and therefore free to love Dodie, so long as she is willing to be loved. Playwright Barbara Lindsay smartly steers away from leaving this as a simple set of wise instructions to an inexperienced and sheltered woman, and chooses instead to allow Raina a moment of outrage concerning Dodie's jealousy of her. What's the good in being beloved if you can't return that love? Though brief, My Boyfriend's Wife explores the subtle difference between the desire to love someone, and the frantic need to be loved by them in return.
Keeping with the theme of the fantastical, The Marketing Plan depicts the boardroom of perhaps the largest and most influential enterprise ever: Christianity. Turns out, however, that God and Co. are losing numbers, and that needs to be remedied fast. Mary is reluctant to make any more public appearances (unless it's on Richard Gere's pecs), Abraham is convinced plagues and floods will restore faith in no time, and "J.C." just woke up from a nap and won't stop tampering with the water cooler (no one in the mood for a glass of wine?). This lighthearted and satirical look at religion and its parallels to the cold modern business world is slow to take off, but once the joke is established and the analogies launched, The Marketing Plan gathers regular steam. The only foreseeable problem with this piece is that there is so much to tackle with the topic of Christianity, yet it sometimes finds itself repeating the same subjects over and over. On the level of character development, though, the cast embraces their archetypes with aplomb. Aaron Clayton does indeed put the nepotistic swagger into his J.C., confident in his knowing he can do whatever he wants, being God's son and all. John Stanisci as Joe, the office errand boy, is not important enough to make the big decisions, but thanks to his relationship with Mary, not dismissible either. Charles Rosenblum (Abe), Kim Reed (Mary), and Michael Graves (Mister G) work well as the trio of thinkers, coming up with radical plans to turn the population away from Buddhism and Wicca and back to the winning team. Jack Rushen's The Marketing Plan takes the controversial issue of religion and sprinkles it with a dash of contemporary cheek; he also reminds us that a glass of wine would be tasty right about now.
The final showing is regrettably the weakest, for The End of the Party takes such a roundabout way to confrontation between mother and son that the stinging realizations are barely given time to sink in before the lights come down. Alex Lewin's glance at sibling rivalry and a mother's true feelings about her son erupt after the mother's sixtieth birthday party, thrown as a surprise by her son and daughter. Ailing of Parkinson's disease, the mother (Vivian Meisner) is both slightly depressed at the notion of turning sixty and frightened of how many more birthday's she will make it to before the disease claims her for good. The son (Eric Chase) is both jealous of his sister's inability to do wrong in her mother's eyes and shocked the confession that greets his accusations. The actual moment of truth is quite appalling in its honesty, but even more appalling is the broken path the play takes to get to this interesting spot. It's a case of incorrectly choosing when the play should begin; start it a few minutes later and the punch will leave a bigger bruise. As of right now, the punch only grazes the skin.
All three of these plays employ amusing and innovative concepts, and in some cases it's a shame they have not been further developed into sharper, more multi-faceted works. For right now, though, Series A boasts a collection of entertaining and concise snippets.
Emerging Artists Theatre Company