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Ensemble Studio Theatre’s One-Act Plays.

Robert Massimi.

The Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST), has been putting on one act plays since 1977. Inspired by the likes of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, new and established writers are brought together on one stage. A favorite of both audiences and actors alike, EST has three series this year. The one acts are a biennial event and has this year has some fantastic shorts.

Founded in 1968 by Curt Dempster, EST found a permanent home at 549 west 52nd st in 1972. Dempster and fellow artist like Jon Voight, Jerry Zaks and Danny De Vito had a mission to nurture innovative new theater throughout New York City. EST have given some of the biggest names in theater today there first shot at stage acting.

The Series C was performed last evening with some good performances, a few good shorts, and a few shorts that had good directing. New York City over the last few decades has had various shorts (59 East 59, aThe Fringe Festivals), but it is EST that has held the benchmark as the most recognizable theater when it comes to One -Acts.

EST had five one-acts last evening: i believe in a republic in which money has a great deal to say (all small letters). This One -act and The Tourist, were probably the two best of the evening. Well acted and directed with excellent costumes, the short was both funny and absurd. Taking place in Newport Rhode Island during the salad days of a bygone era, we watch four women run through a very good skit.

The next performance was Mandarin Duck, a short that really didn’t have any great dept to it. This one only scratched the surface, in the end, it was a big let down. Two woman talking about nothing of great importance and very little meaning. The audience waited for something more, but it never materialized.

The Tourists was probably the most entertaining One- Act of the evening. Set in Paris, France, two best friends made a road trip before Deb was to be married. The two banter about where to go next. Deb is fixated on a hotel employee named Di Mitri, who is young and handsome. The three performers give us a thrill of raucous comedy. The interaction and direction really clicks with The Tourists. Two local yocals from Tennessee trying to blend in Paris was well written.

Jesus In Manhattan tries to play a gender role reversal and does not go over very well. It tries to get political with immigration, sexual harassment and pits the woman as the dominant sex, as the writer tries to show us what it would be like if the roles were reversed. The biggest cast of the night blends well because of good direction, but the writing leaves us wanting more.

The last performance was Fall. This was based on a mother who is incapacitated and needs the help of a nurse from Haiti. The nurse and the mother’s hardened daughter fight like cats and dogs. As the play develops we find that the daughter is the way she is because of her mother. Never receiving any love, the daughter is an un caring, un loving person. We come to find out that the nurse and the daughter, as well as the mother have a lot in common, they all come from a particular inward hell.

Fall was fair to midland. It never gies deep enough, the conversations never really challenge the audience. We are never moved toward the daughters feelings. Even at the end when we should have been moved, we weren’t. Better direction and a tightening of the script could make this a much better play.

The Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Marathon Of One-Act Plays runs until June 29th. Always fun and as always entertaining. Some of the one acts are terrific and some are works in progress. The plays move quickly so if you do not like one, it’s time is limited.

robert massimi
I have been writing on theater since 1982. I currently am Chief Drama Critic for Metropolitan Magazine. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. Former member of board Metropolitan Playhouse.

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