Saturday, July 12, 2014


By Ruth Ross

Rising temperatures and sunshine call for short shorts! Well, the summer theater season is perfect for shorts, too—eight short one to five-minute playlets, collectively entitled Summer Shorts: Off the Hook now "onstage" at Mondo's third-floor Café Theatre in Summit and Tierney's Tavern in Montclair.

Helmed by a variety of directors, this anthology of short comedies, many of them just scenes, really, is unevenly written. Only several contain a true dramatic arc; others kind of just peter out. The acting by seven talented actors, however, is first-rate.

IMG_0442 (2)My favorites, Scrimmage and Double Whammy, were especially compelling. In Scrimmage (by Phoebe Farber and directed by Liz Zazzi), Liz and Rich get into an altercation at a kiddie soccer match in which their children are playing. She claims that the kids should not be held to a high standard because it is only a scrimmage, not even a game, and the players are only nine years old! He counters that the kids should perform the best they can, even in practice. During the course of their argument, the two discover they have something in common beyond soccer. Leslie Williams Reagoso (right) and Brian Parks (left) superbly convey the angst of the single parent and the effect that kids' sports can have on relationships.

IMG_0453 (2)Double Whammy (by Liz Amberly and directed by Mike Driscoll) involves two women waiting for their blind dates to show up. After some rather acrimonious consultation, they become convinced that they have made appointments with the same man, Joe, who has double booked the women at two different times so if one date flops, another will be waiting in the wings. Shannon Sullivan (right) and Jenny Robbins (left) are terrific here—Sullivan as the more confident of the two and Robbins as a newbie to the dating game. There are lots of laughs as the two proclaim truths about this way for young people to get together.

IMG_0478 (2)Reagoso (left) is a very funny know-it-all connoisseur in Coffee Talk (by Brian Richard Mori and directed by Zazzi), wherein a hostess serves her guest (Gloria Lamoureaux (right) coffee ground from beans she grew, harvested, roasted and ground herself! Lamoureaux engages in excellent physical therapy with a gift of a giant vibrator; it's worth the price of a ticket just to watch her turn it on.

IMG_0491 (2)A Silent Piece (a collaborative piece by the three actors involved) has Brian Parks and Joe Dreschel portray two crooks running away from Scott Cagney's cop in a send-up of a silent movie. They get a great physical workout. And in Bear and Earrings (by Mike Batistick and directed by Driscoll) Shannon Sullivan (center) and Scott Cagney (left) portray a feuding couple at a Boston Red Sox game. Bored, she accuses him of bringing home a slut to her bed after she found an earring there. Brian Parks (right) as an obnoxious "Get-cha Beer Heah" guy interrupts their fight and gets off some non sequiturs before leaving the scene. Just watching the couple reach an understanding was quite satisfying. And Scott Cagney plays a judgmental friend to Joey Dreschel's nice guy in love in The Thing with the Cosmos (by Ben Clausen and directed by Driscoll) that kind of gets in over its head with a riff on destiny and our role in what happens in the future.

IMG_0512 (2)The two least compelling pieces are The Session (by Tom Block and directed by Scott Cagney) and The Popcorn Sonata (by Jenny Lyn Bader and directed by Chet Herman). The former involves a therapy session gone very awry as Debbie (Shannon Sullivan, right) strongly comes on to her patient Fred (Joey Dreschel, center) with terrifying results. This is true farce, as her husband Valentin (Brian Parks, left) takes revenge in a most horrific manner. Dreschel has a great death scene.

The Popcorn Sonata takes on modern parenting. Here, an invisible blur of a child (she appears as a sound) responds to babysitters Lori (Jenny Robbins) more easily than to her easily frazzled and very busy working mother. Just the account of what Lori has gotten the child to do is exhausting and offers a great commentary on the huge number of activities we expect our children to complete, so large that there is no time for childhood. The only problem is that the play kind of drifts off with no real dénouement.

Artistic Producer David J. Hoffman waited for these seven actors to be available so he could mount this production. Although the quality of playlets is uneven, the offerings are interesting and entertaining, the acting very good, and it's a nice way to spend a summer evening. As Hoffman notes in his introductory remarks, "The ten-minute play[s]...are the American Theatre's haiku" (Jon Jory, former Producing Director Actors Theatre of Louisville).

The production will be at Tierney's Tavern in Montclair the weekend of July 18 and then back at Mondo the weekend of July 25. For information and tickets, call 908.273.0363 or email