Summer shorts ’96, Neo-Futurists. Though the Neo-Futurists’ evenings of “summer shorts” are made up of six works by an impressive array of authors, neither show is sufficiently inventive or developed to command much attention. The two 80-minute “legs,” presented in rotating repertory, intersperse subversive one-acts satirizing middle-class ideals with didactic monologues from David Mamet at his most rabbinical.
“The Left Leg” sandwiches Please Help Me I’m Falling, Jeffrey Jones’s oddly compelling deconstruction of stereotypical American family life, between two Mamet monologues: the interminable, obvious, blandly delivered Mr. Happiness, about a radio host dispensing advice to the lovelorn, and the rather nihilistic A Sermon, whose pedestrian observations on the narcotic qualities of religion are made more palatable by Sean Benjamin’s fiery and hilarious performance. Jones’s play–which forces a naive young man to face the realities of family homecomings, disease, and addictions–displays a cunning deadpan wit and, under Greg Allen’s solid direction, weaves an intriguing spell. But frequently Jones’s writing is unnecessarily obscure–perhaps to disguise the play’s lack of depth.
Less effective is “The Right Leg,” which places another of Mamet’s self-referential circumlocutions, Litko: A Dramatic Monologue, in between a cheeky, dadaistic take on G.B. Shaw’s How He Lied to Her Husband and Keith Reddin’s tightly written but somewhat facile You Belong to Me. Kay Martinovich’s misguided, smart-ass direction of Shaw’s admittedly dated satire of infidelity makes it into an over-the-top, sophomoric farce. She does better by Reddin’s dark lampoon of savage, unstated yuppie fantasies. But despite assertive and intelligent performances, Reddin’s play is ultimately–like much of the rest of the Neo-Futurists’ work here–too predictable to sustain interest.