Courtney Baron; directed by Maria Mileaf
by Nick Payne,
based on the Maurice Maeterlinck play; directed by Rory McGregor
BRIDGE PLAY by
Danielle Trzcinski; directed by Sarah Cronk
by Julia Polinsky
Every summer, 59E59 theaters runs Summer Shorts, a
celebration of short plays produced by Throughline Artists. The series offers
small doses of work by long-established talent, as well as newcomers. Three
plays per night run in rotating repertory over the course of two nights. Series
A offers what might be called Death Night, as the main idea these three short
plays had in common was death.
That may sound grim. It isn’t. Or at least, doesn’t have to be.
The three plays of Series A look at death from outside (Interior),
inside (Here I Lie), and almost as an aside (Bridge Play).
For these three plays, Greg Macpherson’s provides beautifully
subdued lighting design. Joshua Langman’s projections and Nick T. Moore’s
excellent sound design bring the plays of Series A to life, as it were,
as does costume design by Amy Sutton, and clever scenic design from Rebecca
Mariah Lee, Joanna Whicker, and Bill Buell
Series A begins with Nick Payne’s Interior, based on one of
Maurice Maeterlinck’s better known, early plays. It may be the grimmest play of
the evening. Under Rory Macgregor’s direction, an Old Man (Bill Buell) and a
Stranger (Jordan Bellow) stand outside a home, watching family through the
windows, knowing that they should be the messengers of grief. Earlier in the
day, they’d found a girl, drowned in the river. She’s the daughter of the
family in the house, and the balance of the play tips on whether, or how,
someone should go inside and tell the family of her death.
The Old Man, the Stranger, and eventually the Old Man’s daughters,
Martha (Joanna Whicker) and Marie (Mariah Lee) speak about their struggle with
the pity and fear surrounding the drowned girl, and wrestle with their
consciences, choosing who will go inside and ruin the family’s peace. They talk
about it, that is, but they don’t show it. Interior is more like four
monologues, a group of thoughts spoken on a stage, rather than a play. Much is
evoked in the imagination, the interior of the mind, rather than action on a
Maeterlinck’s original play was part of his early work, in which
he wrote with sparse dialogue, in a style that suggests rather than states, to
show that his characters understood little about themselves or their world.
That may have been evocative and revolutionary in the late 1890s, but it leaves
contemporary audiences wanting something else, something more like warmth and
caring. And plot.
Christopher Dylan White and James P. Rees
The second show of the Series A evening, Danielle Trczinski’s Bridge
Play, makes the whole rest of the night worthwhile. On the edge of the
George Washington Bridge, the middle-aged John (James P. Rees) prepares to go
over the railing and jump to his death. Some annoying, unexpectedly funny
events temporarily short-stop him, as teenage Alex (Christopher Dylan White)
What follows is not necessarily what you might predict, and it’s
beautifully performed, under the direction of Sarah Cronk. It’s nearly
impossible to avoid spoilers when talking about Bridge Play, it’s so
well written, with its plot points buried like land mines, its
characterizations absolutely spot-on, and about a ton of compassion concealed
in surprising places. See Series A for this play alone – it’ll stick with you
for a long time.
Libe Barerin and Robbie Tann in HERE I LIE. Photo by Carol Rosegg
The third play in Series A, Courtney Baron’s Here I Lie,
showcases two people describing their own illness and death. Under the
direction of Maria Mileaf, Maris (Libe Barerin) and
Joseph (Robbie Tann) talk of how they deal with their sickness, their work –
Maris works in publishing, Joseph is a nurse – family, the medical profession.
In Here I Lie, the questions of how, why, and where Maris
and Joseph interact provoke yet more questions, far more than the play answers.
Are they changing places, in their compassion for themselves and each other?
Are they becoming something new and different? Are they causing their own
deaths? Are they cold, or hot, in a desert or in the snow? Are they writing
their own obituaries? Are they begging for attention, or even telling the truth
at all? Does “Here I Lie” parrot the inscription on a tombstone, or is a
portrait of complete falseness? Here I Lie asks you to answer these
questions for yourself.
Summer Shorts: Series
59E59 Theaters (59
East 59th Street, between
Park and Madison Avenues).
Tuesday - Friday at
7:15 PM; Saturday & Sunday at 2:15 PM and 7:15 PM.
Tickets: $25 - $35
($26 for 59E59 Members)
Phone box office at (646)