Summer Shorts 10 Series B

Black Flag by Idris Goodwin
Queen by Alexander Dinelaris
The Dark Clothes of Night by Richard Alfredo
Throughline Artists at 59E59, 59 East 59th

July 22, 2016 — September 3, 2016 [Series B opened August 7]

These slightly belated musings cover the three one acts that rounded out the 2016 10th annual Summer Shorts festival by Throughline Artists. The “B” set of shows, which as a unified event closed its run on September 3rd, had a solid somber core, found new uses for Rebecca Lord-Surratt‘s flexible set that served six stories in all (including the three different one-acts in Series A), and benefited from marvelous contributions from the projection designer Daniel Mueller who rounded out Series B with boffo noiry creations that pushed the design universe of the evening, much as he did in Series A with the end-of-the-world explosions and supernovas of “This is How it Ends.” Series B contained three distinct stories, exploring solid primarily somber ideas. In Series B, the final piece alone provided multiple notes, multiple moves, laughs as well as tears, and a few surprises.

BF [l-r] Ruy Iskandar suzette Azariah Gunn Francesca Carpanini (Carol Rosegg)
[L-R] Ruy Iskandar, Suzette Azariah Gunn, Francesca Carpani in Black Flag by Idris Goodwin. Image by Carol Rosegg.
“Black Flag” by Idris Goodwin and directed by Logan Vaughn, begins with a familiar set up: two college roommates arrive in New York to begin their first year. Sydney (Francesca Carpanini), a white girl from the American South, arrives first, lays out her bedclothes, and unpacks some things from home — pictures, personal items, and  soon, a Confederate flag. Her mother has sent it along with the admonition “don’t you forget your heritage in New York.” Black roommate Deja (Suzette Azariah Gunn), from Detroit, remarks upon the flag but backs off, allowing her roommate space to figure things out but steering clear personally. Harry (Ruy Iskandar) is an occasional visitor to the room, friend of Deja, who pushes for resolution of the differences the flag represents to him, and what he thinks it must represent to Deja. We consider heritage and pride through the lens of symbols that carry other meanings. In the end, we watch Sydney learn, and that seems a bit too simple and only part of the story. There are nuances to explore in the dynamics of race among all three characters, young people testing the lessons of their upbringing and developing view of the world that different from their parents, that this predictable exercise doesn’t yet provide.

[L-R] Saverio Tuzzolo and Casandera MJ Lollar in Queen. Image by Carol Rosegg.
“Queen” is adapted by Alexander Dinelaris from a Gabriel García Márquez story, directed by Victor Slezak on a flat plane. There’s a lovely familiar energy between the down-on-her-luck neighborhood streetwalker Queen (Casandera MJ Lollar), who has entered Joe’s cafe (Joe is Saverio Tuzzolo) a little early this particular evening, looking a bit roughed up and sodden and is, in fact shoeless. The banter between them is familiar but loaded. We see that he feeds her every evening because she needs it and because he’s sweet on her, and we suspect she has reciprocal feelings, but tonight she’s asking him to cover for her. A detective Mike (Chris McFarland) enters to ascertain her whereabouts earlier in the evening and it feels like one character too much for this compactly constructed piece. The ask (tell him that I was here earlier than I arrived) and the debates over what to do would hold this story together sufficiently. The extra layer of the detective interrogation, seemed overkill in this production Perhaps the lovely layered performances of Tuzzolo and Lollar beg for the spotlight to remain on them alone.

Dan Watkins in The Dark Clothes of Night. Image by Carol Rosegg.

The surprise and splendor of the production comes in order last. The cinematic, comedic, almost farcical noir thriller “The Dark Clothes of Night” inspires, suggests, takes hints from many sources, yet becomes its own creation. Richard Alfredo crafts text that director Alexander Dinelaris (adapter of “Queen”) presents with aplomb. Our cinema-inspired gumshoe moves to center stage in this story, attempting to unpack stories within stories, in overlapping universes. As Cy Coleman‘s musical send up City of Angels combines and overlaps a fictional world of a cinema private dick and the real world of the screenwriter who created him, “The Dark Clothes of Night” overlays scenes involving private eye Burke Sloane and film professor Rob Marlowe (both played by Dana Watkins). Multiple roles including cinema femme fatale and college students (Sinem Meltem Dogan) and secondary film characters and university colleagues (James Rees) round out the world of the story. Layers of double entendre, storytelling that rewards those who know film noir genre (characters, settings, authors), and the marvelous projection design take us into the story’s damp dark streets. The terrific evocative sound design by Nick Moore adds a delightful flourish to this grand finale.

© Martha Wade Steketee (September 2, 2016)

Playwrights | Idris Goodman, Alexander Dinelaris, Richard Alfredo
Directors | Logan Vaughn, Victor Slezak, Alexander Dinelaris
Set Design | Rebecca Lord-Surratt
Lighting Design | Greg MacPherson
Sound Design | Nick Moore
Costume Design | Amy Sutton
Projection Design | Daniel Mueller

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