Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Summer Shorts Festival -- Series B at 59E59

Series B:

Pinecone Moment by Alan Zweibel
Falling Short by Marian Fontana
Change by Paul Weitz
Camille Saviola, Caroline Lagerfelt, Brian Reddy, and Jim Murtaugh. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Series B Saves the Best for Last
By Lauren Yarger
This year's Summer Shorts, the seventh annual festival featuring new American short plays presented by Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theatres offers six world one-act premieres including a few from some of the industry's best playwrights. I caught series B for this write-up. I'll review series A later this week.

The highlight of Series B is the final offering, Pinecone Moment, a humorous and touching look at a second chance for love by Alan Zweibel (700 Sundays, Fame Becomes Me).

In their twilight years, Harry (Brian Reddy) and Emma (Caroline Lagerfelt) email each other about their upcoming first weekend getaway together (Director Fred Berner nicely creates the illusion of separate households represented by just two computers on stands and a couple of chairs.) Whether the couple will actually be able to embark on this new phase in their love life depends on how effectively they can silence the voices of their deceased spouses: repulsive and dominating Bunny (a riotous Camille Saviola) and gentle Brian (James Murtaugh), who was Harry's best friend. They keep showing up to give advice, you see. 

Harry fell in love with Emma years ago and is ready to commit, but she isn't sure she's ready to let Brian go just yet. She hasn't experienced that "pinecone moment" -- her term for the exact moment when you realize you have fallen in love with a person. Harry gets some advice from Brian -- and some nifty dance steps from the show's choreographer Deanna Dys -- to try to win her over.

Zweibel nicely develops the characters with a blend of humor and a writing pen sharpened with understanding and plain good writing. Reddy, Lagerfelt and Murtaugh skillfully portray genuinely nice people and Saviola is a hoot as the obnoxious Bunny, who makes every married man in the audience suddenly appreciate his wife.

Christians might like to know:
--No content notes

Leading off the series trio of plays is Falling Short by Marian Fontana (A Woman and Her Bassoon). Here Lee (Kendra Mylnechik) is a wannabee journalist and widow reluctantly trying out internet dating. She connects with Nate (J.J. Kandel), a Renaissance Fair knight, who dreams of making it big as an actor in children's theater. The waiter (Shane Patrick Kearns) steals the show with some of his reactions/interactions with the couple.

Things get complicated when Lee reveals the 9/11 connection with her husband's death. It's a short, sweet look at people being vulnerable, trying to deal with the baggage of past relationships and stepping out of their comfort zones. Alexander Dinelaris directs.

Christians might like to know:
-- Language

In between is a confusing, unsatisfying piece called Change, by Paul Weitz (movie credits include "About a Boy," "American Pie"). Ted (Alex Manette) and Carla (Allison Daugherty) receive a visit from old college drug friend Jordan (Michael D. Dempsey), who is back in town to attend his father's funeral. Ted and Carla have settled into a boring life with kids, no drugs and no sex. Jordan reminds them of their wilder days and he offers to go score some weed for a trip down memory lane. What he returns with, however, is something stronger and the three soon are revealing desires and trying to justify their behavior.

The characters aren't likable. Snorting heroin (and the actors, directed by Billy Hopkins alarmingly appear to be inhaling the lines), toying with the idea of a sexual threesome while their kids sleep down the hallway and a mother being so out of control that she can't respond to child's needs just aren't my cup of tea when it comes to "funny," though to be fair, a number of audience members did laugh. Change doesn't bring home its point or offer any message of redemption or consequences for actions.

Christians might like to know:
-- Language
-- Explicitly sexual language
-- Drug use
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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