NY Review: 'Summer Shorts 2012: Series A'

Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theaters

Reviewed by Marc Miller

August 01, 2012

Photo by Rahav Segev
The best of the three one-acts in "Summer Shorts 2012: Series A" isn't a one-act at all. "The Accidental Pundette" is really just 40 minutes of standup, in which Nancy Giles—contributor to "CBS News Sunday Morning" and occasional channel-hopping political and social commentator—riffs on whatever enters her fertile mind. How much is scripted is impossible to gauge, but she's sure spontaneous, high-energy, fast, and very, very funny.

Giles hops from communication in the Facebook age—she discusses the surfeit of "ways to connect that aren't really ways to connect"—to her summer at a Black Panthers–sponsored camp in Queens, the now-infuriating racism in the Nancy Drew books she loved as a 9-year-old, ABC's Friday-night lineup in 1971, media complaints that prominent black trendsetters and celebrities are "too white," and politicians who apologize without apologizing. She made me laugh out loud, which almost never happens these days. After so much sensible musing about our nonsensical age, she ends with an upbeat anecdote about how she and a political antagonist turned mutual email sniping into respect for each other's viewpoint and began a constructive dialogue. She's fabulous, and I want to hug her.

The other two shows have their good points too. Wendy Kesselman's "Spit" is a literal two-hander, with wise old Horace (Arthur French) and callow young Heather (India Ennenga) enacting a progressive series of championship spit games. We find out that Horace was a victim of racism in the civil rights era, and Heather learns to reach out to this gentle, dignified man. It's sweet and low-key, but we end up knowing practically nothing about Horace, and Ennenga doesn't infuse Heather with a whole lot of personality.

The more substantial but still lightweight "Drive-in Dreams," by James McLure, might be "American Graffiti Goes to a Drive-In," or "The Last Picture Show Lite." It's a 1969 nostalgia fest in a none too convincingly represented Cadillac, in which Donny (Connor Buckley) and Marge (Erin Darke) and Whit (Nick Gehlfuss) and Richie (Megan Ketch) pair off and make out to a double feature of "The Vikings" and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," while Whit, the popular football team captain who's failing algebra, ponders a fateful decision he has just made. It's terribly familiar stuff—horny teens, '60s soundtrack, benefit-of-hindsight observations about American decline—but Billy Hopkins' direction brings out some grace notes in the petting and gabbing, and it's a diverting foursome, broad accents and all. Darke has natural comic timing, and the handsome Gehlfuss, ably embodying Whit's shallow patriotism and East Texas studliness, may remind you of a pre-Yale George W. Bush. I liked him anyway.

Presented by Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., NYC. Aug. 1–29. Schedule varies. (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com. Casting by Billy Hopkins.

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