Thursday, June 13, 2013

City Theater: Summer Shorts (reviews)

 .City Theatre opened the latest iteration of Summer Shorts at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on June 7, 2013.
This year's Summer Shorts includes iZombie by Kendra Blevins, The Gay Agenda by Paul Rudnick, Please Report Any Suspicious Behavior by Rick Park, Departure by Holly Hepp-Galvan, The Student by Matt Hoverman, Feel the Tango by Susie Westfall, Serendipity by Steve Yockey, The Favor by Leslie Ayvazian, Bite Me by Nina Mansfield, A Tall Order by Sheri Wilner, and Mothra vs The Casting Director: An Allegory by David Bar Katz.
Artistic Director John Manzelli assembled a team of directors that included Margaret M. Ledford, Antonio Amadeo, and Mcley Lafrance. The cast included Irene Adjan, Ken Clement, Todd Allen Durkin, Rayner Garranchan, Renata Eastlick, and Vera Varlamov.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The overall production is concept-driven, the idea dreamed up by artistic director John Manzelli and Antonio Amadeo, part of the directing team (Margaret M. Ledford and Mcley Lafrance are the others).
Each play is treated as if it were a piece in an art gallery, represented by a painting or poster or photograph on set designer Jodi Dellaventura’s maze of white walls. Props and furniture get switched, but the over-all design is elegant and effective, with tall, fringed curtains absorbing the ever-changing colors of Melissa Santiago-Keenan’s lighting palette. Add Ellis Tillman’s imaginative costumes and Matt Corey’s artful sound design, and you have one of the more appealingly realized Shorts productions in many years.
Six talented actors, with an assist from Shorts interns, deliver all that variety. Shorts veteran (and audience favorite) Stephen Trovillion isn’t part of the company this year, but that allows a different actor -- Magic City’s Todd Allen Durkin -- to shine. He’s in great company with Irene Adjan, Ken Clement, Renata Eastlick, Vera Varlamov and Rayner Garranchan, but the richness, variety and finesse Durkin brings to each character are fascinating to watch.
Paul Rudnick’s stinging, riotously funny The Gay Agenda is a monologue superbly delivered by Adjan as a conservative Ohio housewife who swears she isn’t prejudiced then proceeds to disprove that notion with every word that comes out of her mouth. Rick Park’s quirky Please Report Any Suspicious Activity features Clement and Garranchan as subway-riding dolphins having a lovers’ quarrel, much to the priceless discomfort of a fellow passenger. Clement as a writing professor and Durkin as his endearingly oddball student have perfect chemistry and timing in Matt Hoverman’s The Student. Garranchan and Varlamov meet cute and grow cuter in Kendra BlevinsiZombie, a funny meditation on just how tough it is to function without our omnipresent smart phones.

The program’s seven other plays don’t rise to that level, though there are no out-and-out duds this year.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Sometimes for actors, especially playing comedy, the only option is to jump off the cliff and see if you can fly. The miracle is that sometimes, as in City Theatre’s Summer Shorts, is that, indeed, they soar.
See the demented look in Todd Allen Durkin’s eyes as a closeted refugee from Santa’s workshop seeking feedback from his writing teacher on his autobiographical homework assignment. Actually, just reread that sentence.

Watch Renata Eastlick go increasingly bonkers as she quintuple-guesses how her options of choices of food at a restaurant might influence how her date might think of her.
And without giving anything away, wait for the sight of Ken Clement leaning against the bars of a cage nonchalantly filing his nails. Trust us.
This 18th edition of short new comedies performed by a repertory troupe scores as one of the series’ stronger entries in recent years. Certainly, some works are far stronger than others and, as always, most of them still need rewriting and tweaking. Consistency has never been a Shorts hallmark. But not a single sketch this year is a head-scratcher, a problem that has dogged the festival most seasons. Most are diverting, pleasant sources of chuckles and guffaws.
Once again, City Theatre benefits from a cadre of skilled directors and actors with a feel for the daffy and droll groove. The cast roll includes Durkin; Eastlick who is moving to New York City; Clement; Shorts mainstay Irene Adjan; indie theater vet Rayner Garranchan and newcomer Vera Varmalov who starred in Mosaic’s The Birds.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Take John Manzelli and Antonio Amadeo. Turn them loose with Irene Adjan, Ken Clement, Todd Allen Durkin, Renata Eastlick, Rayner Garranchan and Vera Varlamov in eleven short plays. Caution, you may hurt yourself laughing.
Did you notice there were only six actors doing eleven plays? Of course you did. Well, let me add that no matter what the piece, this cast was simply terrific. You've never seen such chops in two short hours.
It's good to see Summer Shorts revitalized. The fun is back. Thanks, John Manzelli and Antonio Amadeo.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
The newest edition, now running at the Arsht Center’s Studio Theater through the end of June, consists of 11 skits which collectively form a satisfying smorgasbord...
Over the years, Summer Shorts has drawn some of the region’s best performers, those who are game for the marathon, multi-character, quick-change experience. Not back this year is Steve Trovillion, who often dominated the theatrical event with his anything-goes comic abandon. He is missed, although his shoes are filled quite well by Ken Clement and Todd Allen Durkin, a pair of capable clowns who manage to elevate the material they deliver beyond what is on the written page.
 City Theatre presents Summer Shorts at the Arsht Center through June 30, 2013.

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