Chauncy Thomas and Spencer Sickmann
photos by Carol Rosegg
By Eugene Paul
is a heads-up: the St. Louis Actors’ Studio is presenting one of the best
evenings in New York, three smashing one act plays consummately acted; you
might have trouble getting tickets because it’s a short run in 59E59’s smallest
theater, so be advised. Provocateur playwright Neil LaBute’s annual programs
of one acts are always worth seeing but this year’s offerings are significantly
outstanding, combined as they are, enough to make you argue with yourself as
well as anybody else.
the first play, for instance, written by LaBute, Hate Crime, poisonously
double edged from the title on. From the moment he appears in his aggressively
white terry cloth hotel bathrobe you know that Man 2 (striking Chauncy Thomas)
confidently awaits developments in a plot he’s engineered. And from the moment
you meet Man 1 (superb Spencer Sickmann) ineffably nebbish perfect victim madly
infatuated with Man 2, you know that the plot, whatever it is, is already in
place. Man 1, very much a Boy Toy, is married to his sugar daddy at last,
which makes him just perfect for hunky terry clothed Man 2 to manipulate, if
you’ll pardon the expression. But Boy Toy Man 1, intoxicating as that may be,
feels it more appropriate to postpone such delights until after they’ve
accomplished their mission.
is, to kill Sugar Daddy.
then, newly wealthied Boy Toy widower can marry hunky terry clothed lover and
live happily ever after. It sure is great that man can marry man now. And if we
start to wonder who is manipulating whom, we also start to ponder: gays really
are just like everybody else. Director John Pierson – he directs all three
plays – masterfully presents his case.
Kelly Schaschl and Spencer Sickmannin
case in the second of the three plays, Winter Break, by James Haigney,
is totally, heartbreakingly different. Excited, on edge Joanna (extraordinary
Kelly Schaschl) is methodically packing when her mother, Kitty (splendid Autumn
Dornfeld) enters her room, visibly upset. This is not like other school
breaks. Joanna has been studying the Koran with a very charismatic teacher.
She has adopted Islam. She is no longer Joanna, she says, she is Aisha. She is
blissfully happy in a world of true peace and true love, not based on Western
material things but on true values. Every argument her mother makes is
countered by her new found bliss. Her mother does not understand, will not
ever understand. Can’t she see? She is happy.
brother Bailey ( again superb Spencer Sickmann), furious, frightened, has
learned other visions of Islam in school, of terrorists, of beheadings, of
bombings, of all sorts of brutalities. He tears off the scarf Joanna/Aisha is
wearing. She’s throwing away her very rights. She’s being used. They’ll even
use her as a suicide bomber. They don’t care about her, we’re her family, we
love her. She cannot, she must not go, we’ll never see her again. But Joanna/Aisha
is adamant. It’s only for a couple of weeks, a school break. She is going.
It’s her mother that gives her her passport which her brother has taken away.
Autumn Dornfeld and Chauncy Thomas
three, Percentage America, by Carter W. Lewis, paints a savagely
funny picture of the current stage of us when struggling Arial (Autumn
Dornfeld) and struggling Andrew (Chauncy Thomas), having met through one of
those dating sites, each confess to the other that perhaps the “facts” they
proffered were not exactly accurate. Which gives them enough of something
common to have a face to face. And since they like what they see, they dare to
divulge their true facts regarding at least one topic: their actual ages.
Which leads to a pact: they will attempt -- together – to find the true facts
regarding one story in the presses, and if they can, they think they might
possibly be able to commit to each other, to allow themselves to fall in love
with someone real.
choose a story about a girl discovered in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The hunt is on. And while we laugh as we watch the discoveries by Arial and
Andrew about the girl in the garden (Kelly Schaschl) we also rue.
New Theater Festival, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, near Park
Avenue. Tickets: $25-$35. 212-279-4200. 1 hr, 40 min. Thru Feb 4.