“Plays in the Park” Review - An Evening of Three One Acts

The best thing that can be said about Brian Connors’ three short pieces “Plays in the Park,” a guest production at the Santa Monica Playhouse, is Ed Asner, who gave a reading that is an acting lesson for any aspiring thespian.

That said, one wonders why the producer, George Schott, would have the temerity to invite the press to see what amounts to a scene study exercise of very poorly written, unfocused, rambling material which, for the most part, consists of diatribe expressing the playwright’s opinions on pressing issues from global warming, animal rights, the food we eat, a female’s biological clock, etc.  You get the idea, right? 

The first play read by Susan Ateh and Beege Barkett is called “Park Strangers” and is about two women who show up for a commercial shoot with one of them, an aging actress, discovering by doing this commercial she would indirectly support the sale of cigarettes.  Struggling with this inane material, Ateh gives it a yeoman’s try, while Barkett, who was lacking focus or concentration, appeared to be wishing she were anywhere else except on that stage.

 

Dahlia Waingort and Esai Morales in "Swans," on stage at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Courtesy Photo

“Swans,” the second play, was read by Dahlia Waingort and Esai Morales and is basically about a woman pushing her live-in boyfriend to marry her.  Although a silly piece, Waingort, occasionally too strident, actually gave a reading that was as close to a performance as you can get and should save her talent for something more befitting her professionalism.  While Morales is fabulous to look at, he seemed to be struggling with the material and drifted in and out of the proceedings.  Maybe he, too, was wishing he were somewhere else. 

L-R: Ed Asner and Mark Rydell, a disjointed play called "Oxymorons" about two brothers warring over the same woman. Courtesy Photo

The last piece (thank God for small favors) is called “Oxymorons” and featured Ed Asner and Mark Rydell as what turns out to be feuding brothers over having had sex with the same woman.  The disjointed banter, a major yawn, goes on forever with the only saving grace being watching Asner, and to a lesser extent Rydell, giving a totally nuanced reading of material that should have been performed behind locked doors at, let’s say, the Actor’s Studio writing lab where such playwrights as Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, and James Baldwin refined their work before exposing themselves to critical scrutiny or asking the public to pony up twenty bucks.

National treasure Ed Asner is leaving the production for Broadway (lucky Ed) so that there will be an alternating cast beginning with George Segal and as they say, George, forewarned is forearmed!

Santa Monica Playhouse

1211 4th Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Run:  Saturdays and Sundays through August 12, 2012

Tickets: $20

323.960.7788 or

www.plays411.com/playsinthepark

 

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