Friday, July 1, 2011

City Theatre: Summer Shorts 2011 (5 reviews)

City Theater opened this year's edition of their one act play festival, Summer Shorts, on June 2, 2011 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  This year's program varies from previous years; instead of Shorts for Kids, they've brought back Camp Kappawanna, the original musical for kids that they commissioned last year from songwriter Lisa Loeb and playwright Marco Ramirez.  And instead of the adult-themed Under Shorts collection, they brought in Dirty Little Secrets, a cabaret by Jai Rodriguez of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

This year's cast included Jai Rodriguez, Gregg Weiner, Ceci Fernandez, Finnerty Steeves and Stephen Trovillion.  Directors included Hugh Murphy, Gail Garrisan, Margaret M. Ledford, Stephen Trovillion, John Manzelli, and Stephanie Norman.

John Thomason wrote for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
From the very introduction of this year's Summer Shorts program, you know that change has finally come to an exhausted tradition... The intro feels every bit like the opening of a peak-period Saturday Night Live episode, and the show maintains this energy throughout.
(City Theatre) plunked Rodriguez into its diverse cast of familiar faces and relative unknowns. The chemistry among them is impeccable, and these eight productions comprise the series' most consistently effective compilation yet.
Of the seven plays, five of them are miniature acting duets that carry all of this year's dramatic heft. In the opener, Aboard the Guy V. Molinari, a man (Gregg Weiner) bumps into a woman (Finnerty Steeves) on an NYC bridge as both try to sneak a closer view at Lady Liberty. Their mordantly funny conversation quickly becomes a tête-à-tête about the competing miseries of their daily lives — a discussion quelled only by a celebration of the temporary as a refuge from the long term.
...Dos Corazones... about two new mothers (Steeves and Ceci Fernandez), lying in hospital beds after giving birth, who speak different languages but manage to understand their shared problems. It's a poignant, inspirational piece, acted with the perfect balance of frustration, confusion, and empathy.
Everything before it, though, seems to lead up to Hate the Loser Inside. Trovillion plays a Bobby Bowden-like college football coach whose genteel exterior cracks, bit by bit, as he tries in vain to complete a simple TV commercial for kitchen furniture. Trovillion has a standout performance in every "Summer Shorts," and this is his bravura turn in 2011.
...the festival concludes on a hilarious note with Chronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, a revival that stars Rodriguez... It's one of the many success stories in a program that, for once, is completely worth its hefty $45 ticket price.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
This year’s edition of short-attention-span theater is one of the most successful in the company’s history,‭ ‬as strong a mix of outrageous comedy bumped up against poignant drama as City Theatre has ever mustered.
Nor should there have been any concern about the casting of Rodriguez,‭ ‬who fit into the company seamlessly and demonstrated his acting chops in both comedy and drama.‭ ‬The opening skit,‭ ‬Bienvenidos a Miami by Mark Swaner,‭ ‬directly addressed the issue of featuring a star interloper and Rodriguez quickly showed that he has a sense of humor about himself.

Mock-miffed by Rodriguez’s presence was Stephen Trovillion,‭ ‬a/k/a‭ “‬Mr.‭ ‬Summer Shorts,‭” ‬for his countless appearances in which he stole the performance honors from the rest of the group.‭ ‬Late in the production he does so again as sports coach Donny Broadhaus in‭ ‬Hate the Loser Inside,‭ ‬a comic turn so deft and delicious it brings to mind nothing less than Lucille Ball and her classic Vitameatavegamin routine.‭
For consistency and sheer entertainment value,‭ ‬this‭ ‬16th Summer Shorts is a winner,‭ ‬even if downsizing for economic reasons was the cause.‭ ‬You will probably enjoy the whole evening,‭ ‬but if you saw only Trovillion in‭ ‬Hate the Loser Inside you would get your money’s worth from the experience.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
June in South Florida brings scorching days, the start of hurricane season and something that’s a lot more enjoyable: another round of City Theatre’s Summer Shorts.
Rodriguez, who opens his late-night show Dirty Little Secrets next Friday , certainly gets his showcase moments during Summer Shorts. But he’s no spotlight-hogging star, blending deftly with fellow actors... Charismatic, versatile and a true ensemble member, Rodriguez is impressive.
And so, for the most part, is this year’s edition of Summer Shorts, staged by Hugh Murphy, Gail Garrisan, Margaret M. Ledford, Trovillion, festival artistic director John Manzelli and producing artistic director Stephanie Norman.
...Bara Swain’s Aboard the Guy V. Molinari... Weiner and Steeves are touching and funny...
...Mickey Herman Saves the $#&@ World by playwright Marco Ramirez and composer Jim Camacho... Weiner is dryly funny as the title character and Trovillion a hoot as the planet-destroying emperor.
...Richard Hellesen’s artful Dos Corazones, in which Spanish- and English-speaking new moms share heartfelt truths, is short-form drama at its best. Fernandez is sweetly rock-solid as Ana, Steeves a post-partum mess as the confused Cheryl.
...Trovillion demonstrates why the “Mr. Summer Shorts” title isn’t just an acknowledgement of the fact that he has appeared in more Shorts fests than any other actor. He is, simply, masterfully inventive both physically and vocally as Coach Donny Broadhaus in Hate the Loser Inside, Jon Kern’s play about a simple kitchen commercial gone horribly wrong.
The audience leaves Shorts, as it always does, laughing – which is just one reason why this good-time festival has endured.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
As is usual with Summer Shorts, you can't love everything. This year it's difficult to love anything. Pulling from an announced 2000 submissions, the producers have come up with five new pieces and two plays recycled from previous years. There weren't two plays worthy of producing in the remaining one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five? God help the playwrights of America.
There's a good, veteran cast here, dealing the best they can with material that is less than stunning.  
The good acting aside, there's a cheapness about Summer Shorts this year. It's as if City Theatre can't really be bothered to put up a prime product. I'm not alone in thinking this. The first question at the dreaded talkback following the performance was why was there so little on stage. (I'm paraphrasing here.) As there were no directors or producers present, it was left to one of the actors to try to explain the presentation.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
The difference this year is that there are seven 5 to 20 minute “playlets,”  a much smaller cast than in previous years, and a headliner,  Jai  Rodriguez, who gained fame as the cultural maven of the Fab Five from TV’S Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, who – in addition to participating in the ensemble Shorts –  has scheduled a late night show entitled Dirty Little Secrets.

Otherwise, the 2011 version of Summer Shorts is pretty much on par with earlier versions – some plays smacking of genius, some just plain silly, and one, unfortunately, due to its bilingualism, acoustics and delivery — just too hard to understand.
In addition to Rodriguez who shows his versatility acting, vocalizing and dancing, also in the 2011 ensemble are multi-Carbonell star Gregg Weiner, Finnerty Steeves,  Ceci Fernandez, and  Summer Shorts’ veteran and perennial favorite Stephen Trovillion. It should be noted that merely watching Trovillion will put a grin on your face.
The highlight of the program, though, is Israel Horovitz’s What Strong Fences Make, a short play located  on the Israel-West Bank Border directed by Trovillion  and starring Weiner and Rodriguez.  It is a brief  but dynamic piece which has dramatic impact, summing up the Middle East situation in minutes.
City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival plays at the Arsht Center through June 26, then moves to the Broward Center from June 30 - July 3, 2011.

City Theatre opens Jai Rodriguez' Dirty Little Secrets at the Arsht Center through June 24; it will play the Broward Center on July 2.

City Theatre's production of Camp Kappawanna plays the Kravis Center June 9 - 12, the Arsht Center June 15-26, and the Broward Center July 1-3, 2011

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