NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
In two one act plays in performance at La MaMa, authors direct each other’s work. In “Happy Hour” written by Neil LaBute and “The Second Time” by Marco Calvani, we see the best of collaboration.
The characters inhabit a complete world within a red circle in the set designed by Neil Patel. When looking at desire and attraction, they consider longing, rapture, and even violence.
La Bute and Calvani chose to explore the theme of desire during their residency at La MaMa Umbria. La Bute, who directed “Reasons to be Happy,” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in May, 2013, was recently recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Calvani won a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts of Paris and was invited by the Théâtre de la Ville to represent Italy in an International Writing Project “Le Bal Littéraire.” He is currently collaborating in the position of Literary Advisor to the National Theatre of Scotland.
It is the second edition of AdA, the first one being in 2012, when two new plays were presented in Italian, Spanish, and English (The Spoleto Festival, Fringe Festival of Madrid, and La MaMa Theatre New York). This year, the plays were shown at La MaMa Umbria and during a residency at the Biennale di Venezia in August, 2014.
In “Happy Hour” by Neil LaBute, directed by Marco Calvani, a man and a woman meet at a bar. Performers speak to the beat of house music, provided by Sound Designer, Tim Schellenbaum. As they gaze across the room at each other, the couple explores a need to be fulfilled. Ted, played by Chris Henry Coffey, struggles with being attracted to a stranger, while tending to his fiancé on the phone. Jennifer Mudge, as Cleo, is sexy and forthright. She seduces Ted while drinking martinis. There is a sense of levity and a true physical attraction between the performers. It’s a bit more than a bar hook-up, as the strangers consider the need for companionship and desire to meet someone new.
In “The Second Time,” written by Marco Calvani and directed by Neil LaBute, desire brings both conflict and action. Actors Phil Burke (Philip) and Meredith Forlenza (Sophia) are compelling. The play begins simply enough. Forlenza is quick to sit on a stack of books, while challenging Burke’s theories. The characters discuss Hegel, alchemy, and Plato’s Symposium before their love becomes tragic. They are quick to talk about the body and the soul and what drives them toward happiness. As they look for completeness in each other, they allow the stage to become impassioned and dynamic. Their philosophical ideas reach a breaking point. With bold staging, attention to dramatic action, and an easy-to-understand translation by Bing Taylor, it is the perfect play for La MaMa. They are defined not only by their ideas, but by the need for wanting more.
Authors Directing Authors is an innovative idea, and a smart way to celebrate the collaborative process. AdA is running at La MaMa, located at 74a East 4th Street through November 2. For additional information and a full performance schedule, please call La MaMa at 646-430-5374or visit www.lamama.org.