Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tina Howe's Some Women In Their Thirties Simply Start To Fall

We all know what it’s like to lose our heads over a love interest, but fortunately the loss is only figurative. Not so for Charlotte in Tina Howe’s wacky new short play Some Women In Their Thirties Simply Start To Fall . Charlotte’s head and body part ways on a busy shopping stretch of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In typical New York fashion, passersby offer their two cents in this absurdist jaunt directed by Billy Hopkins, one of eight one acts in 59E59 Theaters Summer Shorts 5 festival, which opened last night.

Trying to keep her cool under these most unusual circumstances, Charlotte (Crystal Finn, in photo center) sings Broadway songs while trying to will her body (Kate Geller covered head to toe in black), which can’t see or hear without its head and is running amok, back to her. An alarmed shopper, Rene (Kathryn Grody, left) whips out her cell phone to call 911 and report a woman’s head singing show tunes in front of Citarella. Howard (Arthur French, right) joins the commotion, also calling for help on his cell.

The concern of these two Good Samaritans turns to star-struck curiosity when they learn Charlotte is the author of books beloved by their grandchildren. Instantly they reach for their phones again and begin snapping photos, then digress into a conversation about their little ones. The zaniness mounts when Dr. Sudhir Singh (Ryan Shams) arrives and quickly, and accurately, diagnoses the cause of Charlotte’s dismembering -- she’s in love with a married man who won’t leave his wife for her. Rene and Howard have plenty to say about that too, offering advice from their own romantic entanglements.

It’s a nice little slice of Tina Howe, whose breakout 1983 play, Painting Churches, will be revised this season Off-Broadway by the Keen Company. Some Women was my favorite of the four shows I saw. I also liked Keith Reddin’s Clap Your Hands, which lacked Howe’s originality -- two couples on New Year’s Eve who really let insults fly after too much champagne -- but it was fun because of the excellent timing of the four actors -- Meg Gibson, J.J. Kandel, Megan Ketch, Victor Slezak. Hopkins directs this one as well.

The other two in Series B were José Rivera’s Lessons For An Unaccustomed Bride, about a devote young Roman Catholic woman who seeks love advice from a witch doctor, and The Green Book, “an Alchemical Comedy” written and directed by Will Scheffer about dementia, incontinence, gay marriage, sibling rivalry and the Holocaust -- all in one act. I felt I was back in my MFA play-writing workshop in both. After the first my friend Brenda commented that she wondered how work like that got produced. After the second she looked at me and asked, “What was that about?” My reactions to each had been the same.

59E59 Theaters’ fifth annual festival of new American short plays from established and emerging writers offers eight world premiere one-act plays in two separate evenings. The two series will run in rotating repertory through Sept. 3. Series A, which I haven’t seen, features In This, Our Time... by Alexander Dinelaris, Triple Trouble With Love, written and directed by Christopher Durang, The New Testament by Neil Labute and Carrie & Francine by Ruby Rae Spiegel.
George Xenos designed the minimalist sets, Michael Bevins the costumes and Greg MacPherson the lighting for each of the plays.

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