Israel Horovitz's New Shorts: nine actors, nine new plays

It always upsets me when my friends don't know who Israel Horovitz is.  For years, Israel Horovitz has been an undisputed master of the short play format, and in this collection of new plays, he does not disappoint. 

 

Israel Horovitz's New Shorts: nine actors, nine new plays, unmisleadingly, consists of nine new plays, many of them written specifically for Barefoot Theatre Company.

 

The nine pieces are:

  • The Bridal Dance - This is an amusing piece, with the entire cast onstage as wedding guests, dancing at a reception.  Their idle chatter with one another is pierced by deft asides to the audience, through which we get to know them intimately- one woman has brought a sleazy man as her date rather than go alone and feels she made the wrong choice, one man is concerned about his date's obvious bulimia but can't deny she's hot, the little girl is worried for her grandmother now that her grandfather's dead.  The bride and groom, of course, have their own issues.  It's funny and touching.
  • Affection in Time - A monologue delivered by Kendra Leigh Landon, which begins with a banal listing of astronomical facts such as how long it takes light to reach the earth, and ends with a powerful statement of the playwright's eschatological angst and hope for the future.
  • The Fat Guy Gets the Girl - Two love-sick and desperate hotel workers try to come to terms with their affection for each other after having sex in an unused room.  Despite the ending being implied in the title, this was a sweet two-hander between Josh Iacovelli (as the eponymous Fat Guy) and Victoria Malvagno (as the Girl). 
  • Beirut Rocks - Searing and powerful, this recalls the vicious cruelty of some of Horovitz's early work such as The Indian Wants the Bronx, while still being passionately of the moment.  Four privileged American college students studying in Beirut are evacuated to a hotel room as Israeli bombs are falling around them.  Tensions run high as they discover they have very different beliefs.  The terribly handsome Christopher Whalen is commanding as the arrogant Benjy, and Stephanie Janssen matches him in intensity as Nasa. I won't spoil the revelation by saying any more about it, just that I didn't realize I was holding my breath until it was over.  I really needed the intermission they provided there.
  • Audition Play - A cute piece about a tap-dancin' fool (Victoria Malvagno) who may have made up her entire resumé, and her attempts to convince a Director (Jeremy Brena) that it's real.  Ms. Malvagno is hilarious in the piece, tap-dancing terrifically as she delivers her lines.
  • The Hotel Play - This was my favorite of the evening.  A woman (Stephanie Janssen) having a long-term affair with a married man (Jeremy Brena) is abandoned by the jerk while she's in the shower.  Room service comes, in the form of the very cute Chad (Francisco Solorzano), who is much more than he seems.  The play was constantly surprising; I have a bad habit of "calling" the endings of things before they end, but this caught me totally off-guard with every revelation.  It's funny and lyrical and a pure delight.
  • Cat Lady - Another monologue, this one delivered by the beatific Lynn Cohen.  She plays a much-married woman who has outlived all her husbands, her children, and now, she's afraid, her cat Cabbage.  Israel Horovitz + Lynn Cohen = two masters at work.
  • Inconsolable - This was a sad little meditation on a mother's suicide and its effect on her young child (Maia Sage Ermansons).  It's haiku-like in its simplicity.
  • The Race Play - This was another piece for the whole company.  It was about a marathon, all the performers jogging in place most of the time.   The rivals and friends all talk to each other even as they compete for first place, then eventually decide to give it up (what a change from Horovitz's Line, his first and most famous play (still running, in its 33rd year off-off-Broadway)!).  A highly effective piece.  (Mr. Horovitz, in a talk-back afterward that I was privileged to attend, said that this was a new piece, but I could have sworn I've read a piece by him with the same title that was very similar- perhaps he adapted it for this set of actors?).

The plays were directed wonderfully by Michael LoPorto, except for Hotel Play, Cat Lady and The Race Play, which were directed (also wonderfully) by Horovitz himself.

 

The evening of plays does not have a "theme", and Mr. Horovitz worried that that might affect a potential audience's interest.  As far as I'm concerned, the only theme necessary is "Plays by Israel Horovitz".  This was an excellent evening, and I highly recommend it.  Go!  See!

 

(I really wanted to make an "Emperor's New Clothes" pun on the title, but I was afraid that would imply there was no substance in the plays, and that would be very wrong of me, for this is powerful stuff indeed.  I guess we could go with some kind of metaphor about seeing through the invisible barriers that people put up around their souls…?) 

 

This production is the second of three events (the first being last month's stunning Lebensraum) leading up to the launch of Horovitz's new theatre company New York Playwrights Lab, slated to present the NY premiere of Horovitz's The Secret of Mme. Bonnard's Bath at the Kirk Theatre beginning February 13, 2007 which will star the wonderful Stephanie Janssen in the title role (and which I'll also be reviewing).

 

Israel Horovitz's New Shorts: nine actors, nine new plays 

The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row

 

410 West 42nd St

 

Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3
Now through January 21




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