Watching a collection of new one-act plays written by different writers, such as those being presented by Throughline Artists as part of its annual "Summer Shorts" series at 59E59, is sort of like attending a potluck dinner.
Your reaction may depend on whether you generally see the glass as half full or half empty. Is it worth it to slog through one bad short play for two decent ones, or maybe just one really good one?
"Summer Shorts" is divided into two separate bills, each containing three different 30-minute one-act plays. I happened to attend Series B, which features new work by all-around provocateur Neil LaBute ("The Shape of Things"), Albert Innaurato (the 1970s hit "Gemini") and Daniel Reitz.
In Reitz' "Napoleon in Exile," a middle-aged mother tries to get her 25-year-old, autistic son, who is clearly smart but can't seem to hold on to even a minimum wage job, to put his life in order out of fear of what might happen to him once she succumbs to cancer.
LaBute's "The Mulberry Bush" depicts a seemingly ordinary encounter between two middle-aged men on a park bench that takes a dramatic turn once one accuses the other of being a sexual predator.
Both of these one-set, two-actor pieces contain compelling, nuanced characters and conflict-based scenarios. They leave you wanting more, hoping that either playwright might use this as the springboard for a full-length drama.
After intermission, there's Innaurato's "Doubtless" (an obvious riff on the drama "Doubt"), a silly, slapdash piece with gay nuns, a vampire-like Jesus and plenty of references to well-known Republican politicians. It's a poor dessert after two pretty good appetizers.