Mark Byrne, Aysan Celik, Rosemary Fine, Jerzy Gwiazdowski, Ethan Hova
M. Burke Walker
Playing at 59E59 Theaters as part of the 1st Irish Festival, Spinning the Times, a quintuple-bill of short plays, comes as a result of an interesting proposition to a group of writers.
The challenge: write a short play based on a news report from the New York news media. The writers in question: five female Irish playwrights. The result: sadly, a bit of a mess.
Despite being billed as “short plays,” the five pieces included in this evening of one-acts, The Lemon Tree by Rosemary Jenkinson, The Luthier by Lucy Caldwell, Miracle Conway by Geraldine Aron, Gin in a Teacup by Rosalind Haslett, and Fugue by Belinda McKeon, are actually all monologues delivered by one of five of the actors associated with the project.
As with another of the entrants in this year’s 1st Irish Festival, The Pride of Parnell Street, the monologue format of the plays in question ultimately ends up hindering the success of the evening as a whole. With five actors involved, why not put the actors to better use, creating interesting dialogues rather than one-sided diatribes?
Geraldine Aron’s Miracle Conway comes across best of the five plays, thanks in part to the brilliance of Rosemary Fine, who portrays a rather homely woman whose goal of reworking lyrics for a major singer-songwriter comes true and ultimately drives her mad.
Gin in a Teacup is also a finely-drawn character sketch, featuring Aysan Celik as a fashion-conscious vintage junkie whose sister and mother don’t quite understand her obsession.
The success of these two plays is due to the inclusion, within the monologues, of other voices. In Miracle Conway the central character also recounts the actions and dialogue of her singer-songwriter idol, and in Gin in a Teacup, the central character also impersonates her sister.
The other three plays make less of an impression. It’s difficult to put across politically-motivated material without any element of levity and without allowing for dialogues between opposing viewpoints to develop.
Ultimately, this evening of plays is worth it simply for the two places in the bunch that really stand out, but one wonders why the writers were constrained to writing monologues rather than fully-realized one-acts. Even the situations in the most successful of the evening’s plays would have been even more compelling had the situations contained within been dramatized rather than merely recounted. As they stand, the five plays in question seem, unfortunately, rather one-sided.