City Theatre is back once again with its Summer Shorts. They've been around for 17 years now and deserve credit for still trying to recreate the excitement and novelty of the earlier seasons. It's a fair effort this year, more consistently funny that last year's offerings, but still suffering from dubious writing and play selections. Writing a successful ten minute play is a daunting task; finding one is even more difficult.
Once again, it is the acting that saves the evening. Irene Adjan, Beth Dimon, Todd Allen Durkin, Stephen Trovillion and Katherine Wright all have their moments as they hustle through the nine comedies and dramas.
Adjan and Durkin get the evening off to a good start as she tap dances her way through Israel Horovitz's The Audition Play and he plays the fixated director. Adjan shows once again what a terrific comedienne she can be.
Company fixture Stephen Trovillion and Durkin match wigs and wits as Ben Franklin and John Adams in Adam Peltzman's Bedfellows. A funny, one joke piece that runs too long.
Lojo Simon's Moscow has Katherine Wright burying her baby's placenta, looking like 3 lbs of cats’ meat in a see-through plastic bag, on a mountain top while her stereotypical Jewish mother, Beth Dimon, kvetches. They embrace at the end.
The Man From Mars by Christopher Demos-Brown gives the ensemble a chance to fake orgasms in a sketch featuring Stephen Trovillion.
Adjan, Dimon and Wright are the book club members in The Britneys by Kerry-Anne Lavin, with Beth Dimon standing out as the drunk.
A guy brings his girl friend along to watch and listen to him talk to his dead wife in the tear jerking Three by Gregory Bonsignore. Irene Adjan is the forbearing one and Stephen Trovillion is the uxorious one on his knees at the grave.
I'll Be There by Joyce Turiskylie is the most successful play of the evening, funny and well constructed, with Trovillion and Dimon able to put depth into their characters as a weird suitor and his reluctant love.
Green Dot Day by Carey Crim (winner of City Theatre's Award for Short Play Writing) is a surprisingly cold piece with Adjan and Durkin trying to make a baby.
And finally, Mark Swaner's Reality Show has Durkin ranting at, guess what, reality TV. Despite Durkin's efforts this is not a strong closer.
The three directors were Mark Swaner, Margaret Ledford and John Manzelli.
And the production values? Just so so, with a cluttered, minimal set (how's that for an oxymoron?). Props on carts in plain view, regardless of the piece being staged, were a distraction, as was the large frame with doors around the playing area.
Audience reaction was positive for pretty much all the pieces, a lot of laughs and engrossed moments, so the popular vote says aye to Summer Shorts for 2012.
Summer Shorts runs through June 17 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami.