Wednesday, June 3, 2009

City Theatre: UnderShorts (4 reviews)

City Theatre opened UnderShorts, as part of its Summer Shorts Festival, on May 29, 2009. It's billed as "late night 'shorts' with and edge" and labeled "Adults Only."

The adult-themed plays of UnderShorts were written by playwrights including Christopher Demos-Brown, Jeffery James Ircinck, Tim Acito, Ken Brisbois, Francesca Rizzo, Richard Orloff, and Michael John LaChuisa.

This year's cast included Elena Maria Garcia, Stephen G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull, Erin Joy Schmidt, David Hemphill, John Manzelli, and Stephen Trovillion.

Directors included Stuart Meltzer, Amy London, Avi Hoffman, Stephanie Norman, Gail Garrisan, and Gordon McConnell.

The Miami Herald has declined to review this production.

Mary Damiano managed to get to the theatre across from the Herald's offices to review for Miami Artzine:
There’s a lot to like about a program that begins with Erin Joy Schmidt as a ditzy, leather-clad dominatrix and ends with her as a uni-browed Bulgarian peasant in a red white and blue bikini.
Three of the better plays in Undershorts are the first three—they come at you right out of the gate, a rat-a-tat-tat of racy wackiness. In April Showers by Francesca Rizzo, the aforementioned Schmidt’s dominatrix has trouble performing a requested sex act on a bound and blindfolded preacher. In Sodom & Gororrah: Priced to Sell, the incredibly versatile Stephen Trovillion plays a gay real estate agent trying to interest a conservative couple in a home in the infamous twin cities, where a copulating conga line wafts past a window. And in Pass the Salt, Please by Jeffrey James Ircink, a bored married couple (Trovillion and Elena Maria Garcia) take their mundane dinner conversation to a super spicy level.
The cast is uniformly excellent, with energy and versatility to spare. Trovillion is in five of the seven plays, is both hysterical and touching, combining the two perfectly in Pass the Salt, Please. The cast’s quick change of both costume and character is something to behold.
Perhaps the Herald couldn't be bothered to send a reviewer across the street, but Brandon Thorp made it for the Miami New Times:
Go see Summer Shorts. Just do. It's a lot cheaper than the imported Broadway dealio (Chicago) running in the larger theater down the hall...
...pulling together Summer Shorts — with its truckload of scripts, its busload of directors, its gaggle of actors — must be a fraught and frantic process, the caliber of artists is such that you'll never see a bead of sweat. When the occasional show misfires, it has nothing to do with the people performing it; this year's few flops are the results of defective scripts.
These shows whiz by quickly enough, and Summer Shorts' prevailing ethic of awesomeness reasserts itself. In short after short, Signature Shorts and Undershorts will make you gasp at the audacity of both the writers and the performers, who take good ideas and push them further than you'd think they could be pushed. The best piece (is) Jeffrey James Ircink's "Pass the Salt, Please" ...
The acting throughout all of this is sublime. Stephen Trovillion, Erin Joy Schmidt, Laura Turnbull, John Manzelli, Stephen G. Anthony, David Hemphill, and especially Elena Maria Garcia wear so many masks so comfortably that, by the middle of Undershorts, the effort begins to look a little superhuman. The thought and heart they've invested in each of their small characters is shocking, and their dedication is absolutely moving.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Undershorts... had lots of intriguing premises, but little in-depth development, an occupational hazard of short plays. This program was at its best in silly mode, like Ken Brisbois’s Sodom and Gomorrah: Priced to Sell, a series of running single-entendre gags with a Biblical bent -- with an emphasis on the bent. And the finale piece, Bulgarian Rhapsody by Rich Orloff, about an homely Bulgarian lass (Schmidt) being pimped to an American tourist (Hemphill). These too seemed minor on the page, but the cast added the needed controlled giddiness.
(Garcia and Trovillion) appear together in a weak sketch called Pass the Salt, Please by Jeffrey James Ircink, about a much-married, weary couple describing their sexual urges for each other as they dispassionately eat their dinner. The script barely rises to its single joke, but the two performers sell it with deadpan finesse.

Also impressive is Laura Turnbull in a variety of dry, wry characterizations including a Bulgarian matriarch and God’s messenger to the heathens of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for the Sun-Sentinel:
From the unprintable lyrics of the pre-show music to the opening image of a preacher tied to a bed underneath a leather-clad prostitute, Undershorts gleefully announces its mission as raunchy, irreverent fun.
Like the other series Signature Shorts and Shorts 4 Kids, some of the satires are hilarious, some elicit a smile and some make you wonder what the selection committee members were thinking when they chose the script.

Pass the Salt, Please
, written by Jeffrey James Ircinck, is easily the most uproarious piece although the least promising on paper. A middle-aged couple at their five thousandth meal together turn their bland table talk into an ever-bluer description of prospective sex for dessert. What makes it side-splitting is the deadpan delivery and timing of actors Stephen Trovillion and Elena Maria Garcia under the direction of Stuart Meltzer.

Conversely, I Call Your Name by Tim Acito, has an intriguing premise that never pays off: a woman having sex calls out the wrong lover's name and is transported through a wormhole to that person's bed. Only the acting by Laura Turnbull and Garcia make this fraternity skit worth watching.

Both are emblematic of the whole evening and the Shorts festival in general: None of the seven playlets completely disappoint on stage because the producers hire solid local directors and a troupe of inspired clowns incapable of a bad performance. But the quality of the material is, to be gentle, variable.
UnderShorts is presented by City Theatre at the Arsht Center through June 21. It then moves to the Broward Center June 25th - 28th.

1 comment:

  1. to Hap Erstein...if "Pass the Salt, Please." is a weak script but the actors "sell it with deadpan finesse", doesn't the script work then? on stage?