Equilibrium is a collection of five very short plays done by graduates of the Theatre Lab Honors Conservatory, Buzz Mauro’s and Deb Gottesman’s excellent program of theater education. The best of these is clearly the last: The Greener Lot (Playwright: Carl Brandt Long), in which a young couple (Echika U. Agugua and Mark Ludwig) believe, erroneously, that they have found their dream home. When the truth lands on their shoulders like an expectant vulture, they are horrified, but their real estate agent (Nia Medina), a spin doctor of the first water, manages to utilize the lovers’ dreamy optimism and vagueness to shoehorn them into a preposterous decision. This is not a new theme or a new idea, but Long’s deadpan writing is crisp and the actors buy into every absurdity, which allows them to sell the show as efficiently as the real estate agent sells the monstrosity she’s selling.
The remaining four shows present intermittent pleasures, but none of them pack much of a wallop. Two of them – Cry on Cue (Patrick Link) and A Walk in the Ocean (Mark Harvey Levine) – seem to be principally character studies. In the former, Liz (Amal Saade), a fabulously successful photographer, has been commissioned to create a book populated with pictures of crying men. She recruits her ex-boyfriend Adam (Ludwig), an unemployed actor, to cry. They have some dialogue, and she takes his picture. If there was a larger point, it escaped me. The actors, particularly Ludwig, are very good, though.
In A Walk in the Ocean, Bill (Long) takes Karen (Elizabeth Heir) for a walk into the middle of the Ocean, to facilitate her announcement that she intends to end their relationship. No, this isn’t a spinoff of The Sopranos – for some reason they both have the ability to walk on water. I got the sense that the ocean is a metaphor for something, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out what. The acting is good, though – and in the instance of Heir, fabulous.
Palindrome Love (Robert Lynn) is a gimmick play. There are two brief scenes, involving Bob (John Stange) and Ada (Sara Bickler). The characters say in the second scene everything that they said in the first scene, but because the context and line reads are much different in the second scene, the meaning is much different. This is a nice technical accomplishment but good theater is more than technical accomplishments. Lynn gives his characters mostly clichés by way of dialogue; this makes the lines easier for the audience to remember (and thus easier to mark off against a mental checklist of first scene-second scene lines) but does not enhance their meaningfulness, or the characters’ likeability. The acting, though, is good.
Insurance (Steve Silver) is too preposterous and false to be believed. Two members of Congress, Richard and Katherine (Pat Martin and Adele Robey, respectively) are having a date – apparently in public – notwithstanding that Richard is married and has three children. For some reason Richard seems impelled to sell Katherine insurance, and Katherine is after Richard to reveal his most intimate secrets even as she reveals her own. Eventually, a surprise ending solves some of the mysteries, but not all, and believe me when I tell you that the game is not worth the candle. Silver obliges his characters to switch emotional states without rhyme of reason, and the actors are not the equal to it. I must tell you that I did not buy Martin at all. As for the fabulous Robey, who co-founded Theater Alliance and the H Street Playhouse and is a 2007 graduate of the Theatre Lab Honors Conservatory, I would not presume to judge her performance, other than to note that we should give her the space to learn the craft which she allowed so many others to practice through her generosity.
Dave Crowley directed all five plays and imbued them with as much energy and urgency as the scripts allowed.
Insurance by Steve Silver
Cry on Cue by Patrick Link
Palindrome Love by Robert Lynn
A Walk in the Ocean by Mark Harvey Levine
The Greener Lot by Carl Brandt Long
Directed by Dave Crowley
Produced by No Small Parts
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?