CLEOPATRA’S SEX MANUAL and The sale of the BROOKLYN BRIDGE, JDM Players, at Cafe Voltaire. One-acts, like short stories, are an art unto themselves. If written with sensitivity, intelligence, and above all economy, they soar. If treated as stunted full-length plays, they’re unsatisfying.
Jovan Demetrius Mihailovic’s two one-acts on this program, produced by a new theater company bearing his initials, are a cornucopia of playwriting mistakes: unconvincing dialogue, uninteresting stories, unbelievable characters, incredibly predictable plot twists. In The Sale of the Brooklyn Bridge, he gives us a con man and then spends 90 agonizing minutes showing us in painstaking detail how the man fools a rube into buying a certain famous bridge in New York City. And he burns up ten minutes revealing just which bridge the con man can sell, perhaps on the assumption that no one in the audience read the front page of the program.
In Cleopatra’s Sex Manual Mihailovic spends 45 minutes setting up a preposterous relationship between a nail technician and her elderly client–they gossip, trade sex secrets, discover that the nail lady was Cleopatra in a past life. Then he shatters the play with a cheap Pirandellian trick: they’re actresses rehearsing a play. And then he adds a silly, bathetic ending: one of the actresses has a nervous breakdown and comes to believe she is, indeed, a nail technician who was once Cleopatra. I could go on, but why bother?