Winter Shorts 2001: Best of the Fest! is a collection of the best scripts from the festival of one-acts that began in 1996 and is reproduced in a two-hour performance that is both lively and entertaining. City Theatre has found its niche and a strong troupe of actors to carry out the comedy.
Rich Simone's snazzy and mobile stage design, actors who disco-dance between plays, and booty-shaking stagehands give the performance a lighthearted, devil-may-care feel -- although some pieces have serious elements. One such piece, and by far one of the most impressive, is the bilingual play Dos Corazones (Two Hearts), written by Richard Hellesen. Elena Maria Garcia and Nell Gwynn give excellent portrayals of two new mothers wading through postpartum joy and depression as well as language barriers to reach out to each other. Both moving and hilarious, it is exemplary of a successful one-act: range and depth in a matter of minutes.
Gwynn is a standout all around; her strong stage presence often is both humorous and moving. Tom Wahl and Angie Radosh are other familiar and always enjoyable faces onstage. Oscar Isaac, the only newcomer to City Theatre, gets to show off his range, from disturbed adolescent to nerdy library assistant. Offering rapid-fire performances (eleven one-acts in approximately two hours) is a task that this strong ensemble definitely is up to. But with the exception of Dos Corazones, the directors' sole purpose seems to be making the audience laugh, which they do quite well. For example in both CoitusHate-Us, by Hillary Rollins, and Matterhorn, by Rich Orloff, two couples express hostility to the point of hilarity, but because of the directors' reliance on comedy as the primary emotive tool, audiences never feel the hostility. No matter how heinous the insults, they are all in the name of comedy, which can result in a missed opportunity. The range is implicit in the scripts. Why not explore it a little more?