August 5, 2014: “The worst thing was to indulge you,” the woman ruefully tells her disheveled son, who, at 25, is still incapable of making his way in the world. If she weren’t there to stop him, Corey would spend his days playing Minecraft on his laptop. Such is the trouble for mother and man-child in Daniel Reitz’s terribly tender, very funny short play Napoleon in Exile. Directed by Paul Schnee, it leads off Summer Shorts: Series B, presented by Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theaters and also featuring new works by Neil LaBute and Albert Innaurato. Central to Mr. Reitz’s play is that Corey is “on the spectrum”: acutely intelligent, socially hobbled. In Will Dagger’s extraordinarily sympathetic performance, he is also urgent, ashamed, odd, lovable, scared and desperate. Henny Russell, as his mother, has the less rewarding part, but Mr. Reitz has written a rich role in Corey, and Mr. Dagger makes it indelibly his own. The men in Mr. LaBute’s morally complex The Mulberry Bush, like Peter and Jerry in Edward Albee’s classic one-act The Zoo Story, are strangers in a park. Their meeting is not accidental, though it appears that way at first to quiet, distinguished-looking Bill (Victor Slezak), who often eats lunch on a secluded bench. Younger and seemingly lower-class, Kip (J. J. Kandel) has come to accuse Bill — to specify the charge would be a spoiler — and defend his own family.READ THE REVIEW
Summer Shorts: Series B OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS
- Opening Night:
- July 26, 2014
- August 30, 2014
Theater: 59E59 Theaters / 59 East 59th St., New York, NY, 10022
Summer Shorts returns for another summer of new American one-acts featuring original plays by the country’s top playwrights. Representing some of today’s best writing, directing and acting talents, Summer Shorts celebrates theater, summer and the short form. The festival’s two separate series offer a diverse range of voices, styles and subject matter. Summer Shorts 2014 offers six world premiere one-act plays, presented as two separate evenings of three each. The two series will run in rotating repertory.
Series A: July 26th – August 30th, 2014
By ALBERT INNAURATO & Directed by JACK HOFSISS
With such formidable opponents as hypocrisy, government, hysteria, neurosis, family, religion and pop culture – can we ever really know and accept who we are? Well, these two brave nuns are going to give it a go….
THE MULBERRY BUSH
By NEIL LABUTE & Directed by MARIA MILEAF
Two men meet up on a bench in the park. One of them is meant to be there. The other is not. What follows is a domestic thriller played out in the harsh sunlight of a weekday afternoon.
NAPOLEON IN EXILE
By DANIEL REITZ & Directed by PAUL SCHNEE
Corey is 25, living at home, can’t hold a job, and is obsessed with Minecraft. His mother has other ideas for him.
NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Summer Shorts: Series B
TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF Summer Shorts: Series B
August 5, 2014: Series B begins with a pair of absorbing two-hander one-acts that mine the fringes of the human psyche. Daniel Reitz’s Napoleon in Exile looks at autism with humor and wit as an ailing mother (Henny Russell) prepares her video game-obsessed son (Will Dagger) for life without her. Russell’s wry and restrained delivery melds in counterpoint with Dagger’s tireless precision as they go through role-plays, including a particularly heart-wrenching conversation with his estranged father. Reitz has a deft ear for dialogue that simultaneously exacts laughter and sobs. Neil LaBute’s slyly titled The Mulberry Bush follows with increasingly pointy barbs flung across a park bench Zoo Story–style by two unassuming men. Bill (Victor Slezak) is on his regular lunchtime break while Kip (J.J. Kandel) is on a more pressing mission. To say much more would diminish the gut-wrenching pleasure of the reveal, but in LaButian fashion, it doesn’t disappoint.READ THE REVIEW
NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF Summer Shorts: Series B
August 4, 2014: After vanishing from the NY stage for 25 years, Albert Innaurato is back with a vengeance — and his weapons are cocked and loaded. Those who were around in the late ’70s remember him as the playwright whose Gemini ran on Broadway for 4 ½ years. But his new play, Doubtless — the last in a trio of oneacts in Summer Shorts Series B — is the antithesis of commercial. In fact, it had some theatergoers running for the exits. In Doubtless — John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is among the many targets here — a pair of sacrilegious nuns who are lovers act as Innaurato’s mouthpieces, spewing out a demented list of aphorisms and one-liners. Nobody’s safe as Innaurato sets his machine gun on automatic and fires nonstop at sexuality, religion and politics — a riff about Antonin Scalia and a salami at an Opus Dei orgy combines all three. Pop culture isn’t safe either, with digs at Justin Bieber and, for good measure, the writer’s home base of Philadelphia, which he calls “the Tucks Medicated Wipes of cities.” The show deserves a better production than this one. It isn’t nearly outrageous enough and the acting’s stilted, though Dana Watkins occasionally rises to the occasion as Jesus, here a hunky vampire with a taste for Blondie.READ THE REVIEW
STAGE BUDDY REVIEW OF Summer Shorts: Series B
August 4, 2014: When watching several short plays in succession, as I had the pleasure to do last Friday at 59E59's annual installment of their Summer Shorts Series, it is an involuntary reflex as an audience member to try to sew together the shorts, to try to figure out what connects them as a larger piece of theater. The stage design is minimal, and three large wooden blocks transform seamlessly from couch, to park bench, to Church pew, with the aid of some throw pillows, fake bushes, and clever lighting design, amongst other subtle scene shifts. But such stage sleight of hand, if you will, fades quickly into the background, as powerful, disturbing, and thought provoking performances enter front and center. Take Evelyn and her son Corey in Daniel Reitz's Napoleon in Exile, directed by Paul Schnee. It's wintertime, and Evelyn, played with exhausted grace by Henny Russell, has come home to find that her son has far exceeded his time limit on Minecraft, the online gaming universe, and has once again neglected his chores. He launches into a rant on his progress in the game and why he couldn't stop, which I am hilariously familiar with thanks to my frequent care of a loquacious eleven year old with a similar fondness for the game. But wait, Evelyn is past middle age, and Corey isn't in grade school, he's twenty-five. And something else isn't quite right. Evelyn is weary, but tenderly practiced in her communication with Corey (played by Will Dagger): "I feel...", "I worry..." Corey is far less tender, and when he pushes her buttons again and again ("Did you take your Lexapro?"), it seems the only explanation for her calm responses is that she's so very used to this. Corey has autism, and though he's charming, funny, and intelligent, it's very hard for him to hold down a job, even at a fast food place, and so he's perfectly content playing video games on his mom's couch, with a mom who unconditionally loves and understands him.READ THE REVIEW