Series B, the second and final cluster of brief plays in the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s current one-act play “Marathon” is more notable for the contributions made by the actors than for anything dreamed up by the writers.
As is the case with Series A, which shares the EST “Marathon” stage through June 27, Series B contains five plays by relatively unknown playwrights, most of them working at the theater for the first time.
Among the actors doing especially fine work in this year’s “Marathon” is the remarkable David Margulies, who stars in Jeanne Dorsey’s grim comedy, “Blood From a Stoner.” As is the case with all five of the playlets on the second bill, Dorsey’s play goes on a bit too long, and, were it not for the excellence of Margulies’ performance, might easily have worn out its welcome before its closing lines are heard.
The actor plays an elderly, irascible father, having an uneasy restaurant lunch with his alienated daughter. One of the old boy’s eccentricities is his fondness for pot-smoking, hence the play’s title. Adding effective support are Patricia Randell as the exasperated daughter and Thomas Lyons as a waiter, with Maria Mileaf directing.
A valued EST veteran, Leslie Ayvazian is represented this time by “Carol & Jill,” in which two old friends consider a bit of same-sex experimentation while their husbands are away. Ayvazian is Carol, while Janet Zarish is Jill. The director is Daniella Topol.
Billy Aronson’s “Little Duck” takes place in a television studio which is developing a new animated kiddies’ program. The “creative” staff bickers and plots, putting at risk the very future of the project. Jamie Richards’ frenetic direction has the play’s five-actor cast rushing from moment to moment, often with little in the way of credible motivation.
M.Z. Ribalow’s anachronistic Western, “Sundance,” is puzzling and devoid of specific intention. The familiar names are here, and their owners, Hickock, Jesse, Sundance and The Kid, are present and accounted for. Under the direction of Matthew Penn, EST regular Richmond Hoxie makes Hickock the wise elder of the group, but that doesn’t keep him from being the first man shot, so he spends most of the play playing dead.
Of the five plays in Series B, only Cassandra Medley’s “Daughter” reflects much interest in the outside world. Three African-American women are mourning the death of Monique, the 19-year-old daughter of one of them, Alma.
The girl had volunteered for military duty in the American war in the Middle East, only to succumb to grievous wounds sustained there. Seen only in her mother’s memory, Kaliswa Brewster is a, vital Monique, while, as directed by Petronia Paley, Gayle Samuels delivers a moving, earnest Alma.
This current EST “Marathon” is far from the best edition in the 31-year-old series, but there’s always hope. After all, next year will be coming along.