Review by Sander Gusinow
This past summer, the Core Artist Ensemble mounted over forty workshop productions of short plays from around the country. A commendable undertaking, to be sure. Now, CAE has returned to the Barrow Group Theatre armed with seven shorts selected for full production.
And what a rowdy bunch of shorts they are. The Core Artists clearly have a type; bawdy, bombastic, with just enough of human element to keep us interested. Peppered with lewd humor, drunk shtick, and NYC inside jokes, CAE’s aptly named ‘Twisted Shorts’ delivers an evening of impish laughter.
The evening puts it’s best foot forward. ‘Parent Interview’ by Justin Warner was the cream of the proverbial crop. Held aloft by the hilariously rigid performance of Libby Collins, a tightly-wound teacher interviews a hopeful couple (Rachael Lee and Matt Reeves), longing for their child to get a slot at a prestigious elementary school. Poking fun at the insurmountably high standards of NYC private education, the play’s raunchy twist comes when the teacher (Collins) reveals a more carnal motivation behind the interview.
‘Immersion Therapy’ by David MacGregor was by far the most heartfelt of the evening. A timid woman (played by Jane Elias) confronts her crippling fear of clowns when her husband introduces her to Droppo, (Nate Rollins) whom he’s hired to help her overcome her phobia. Elias and Rollins imbue the scene with mountains of sad sincerity; the woman’s fear of clowns is cleanly reflected in Droppo’s mourning of a world that no longer wants him. The pair are simply divine; blissfully amplified by the strong character-driven direction of Jewells Blackwell.
Of course, with seven shorts you’re bound to fall flat somewhere. ‘3,000 Reasons’ about a bickering couple obsessed with Derek Jeter wears out its welcome, and ‘Post Mortem’ about a bedbug-ridden couple’s diminished sex life never quite gets off the ground. Fortunately, they’re both followed and preceded by genuine crowd pleasers.
Core Artist Ensemble does not fail to impress here. This series of shorts further cements their place as masters of the scandalous, quirky, and bizarre. They seem like a company capable of pulling off Lindsay-Abaire’s ‘Wonder of the World’ or Durang’s ‘Ms. Witherspoon.’ One can only wait to see what the future holds, but I’ll certainly be in the front row.