By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
The two strongest plays, The Divine Fallacy (written by Tina Howe and directed by Marjorie O'Neill-Butler, City Theatre's artistic director) and Deaf Day (written by Leslie Ayvazian and also directed by O'Neill-Butler), manage to be both humorous and serious.
The Divine Fallacy is the story of Dorothy Kiss (played by Sharón Kremen), a novelist and the ugly duckling sister of a supermodel. As a favor to the supermodel, a top fashion photographer named Victor Hugo (played by Stephen Trovillion) agrees to photograph Dorothy for her next book. From the initial inquiry to the snapping of the photo, a string of events ends in the transformation of Dorothy from a neurotic nerdy romance novelist to a sensitive, attractive woman. Dorothy challenges the high-fashion photographer to take pictures of her mind -- the real locale of her beauty -- in a beautifully written monologue that juxtaposes women and elephants, tusks and arms, all merging in a mythical river.
Kremen makes an impressive transformation, one that is subtle and believable because of her use of body language and gesture. She does not betray the uncertain and even jerky gestures of her character, but she does peel away layers of coats, scarves, hats, and inhibitions, revealing an attractive and complex person.
In Deaf Day Tom Wahl portrays the father of a deaf child who on "English Day" must go to the park and interact with hearing children. The appealing aspect of Deaf Day is that it does not surround a dramatic event, but it uncovers the drama of a day-to-day event such as a trip to the park. This drama comes from a more neutral place and therefore seeps in instead of hitting you over the head. Structurally the piece is challenging because the child's presence is implied and not acted out. Wahl must maintain the energy and intimacy that one would have conversing with his or her child without the physical presence of the child. And the language is wonderful. At one point the father says to the child, referring to a ride on a swing: "Remember there was that moment when you and that little girl were both perfectly balanced? You were both sitting in the air. That's something special." The piece not only shows us the world of the deaf child (the taunting from other children, the fear of being an outcast, and the need for solitude), it also reveals the world of a parent whose child is disabled. It is both humorous and realistic. The father advises his son to find the kids who are nice and ignore the ones who say stupid things. He adds: "Remember what we think of stupid kids? We think the stupid kids are stupid."
Hats off to City Theatre for presenting short-form plays as a genre and not trying to relegate them as filler work. They have proved that a well-done ten-minute play can be as effective, emotionally and intellectually, as any full-length play. The cast is a high-energy, stimulating group that manages to infect the audience, and the dual-program, picnic-supper format makes for a full-length evening.