LongShotz: Arrivals and Departures

Article Image
Photo Source: Greg LeBlanc
Many New Yorkers, E.B. White observed, are "strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail." That this is still true more than half a century later is what drew me to see a series of new short plays that were promoted as being "inspired by a yearlong project documenting life in New York City."

"LongShotz: Arrivals and Departures," two separate evenings of three short plays apiece, is so far from what I expected that at first I felt misled. None of the six half-hour plays is about an immigrant's experience, for example, none about somebody leaving because they are fed up with the city.

Instead, this is the latest and most ambitious version of a series called Shotz created by Amios Theatre Company, which has produced some 80 short plays since 2009 through what amounts to a theatrical exercise. As its website explains: "For each Shotz, six playwrights get a week to write a short play based around three conditions and a theme."

Yet in one way the plays do reflect life in New York City—the energetically creative lives of the members of the company, who are themselves largely newcomers to New York, graduates of the soon-to-be-defunct National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. As uneven as the pieces are in execution, there are intriguing ideas at play in most of them.

"Arrivals" is the stronger of the two evenings. "One Step Beyond," by Imogene Byrd, is a quick chronicle of a couple—he from Queens, she from Staten Island—from their meeting at a Scrabble tournament through marriage, parenthood, and the realization that love sweetens but does not eliminate life's disappointments.

"Little China," by Justin Yorio, is a deceptively simple story about a married female couple who find a man's stray cat (Little China is the name they give the cat) and return it to him, leading to a surprise that reveals subtly how much one of the characters has in common with the stray.

"The Very True Chronicles of Aloysius the Traveller, in the Great Land of New York City" by P. Seth Bauer is an exuberantly acted, delightful mess of a folk tale, in which an out-of-towner (Christian Haines) convinces a New Jersey fisherman (Genesis Oliver) to row with him to New York City, where together they have adventures on Wall Street, in Central Park, atop the Empire State Building, and underwater, meeting many New Yorkers (Sean Lyons, most memorably as a fish).

"Departures" begins with "Rosary," by Pat Shand, about two childhood friends who have grown apart. One is studying to be a priest; the other, a writer, is a lesbian in a relationship.

In David L. Williams' "The Counter Offer," a wealthy young man representing the three million people who make up the "one percent" offers a spokeswoman for the Occupy Wall Street movement $300 million to give up her position and leave the city.

"Whatever Happened To Baby Ngozi?," by Kate MacCluggage, begins with a convincing physical fight between two men (Michael Fulvio and Rob Robinson) of different ethnic backgrounds, who turn out to be brothers, both adopted by a famous and corrupt Hollywood actor. They overcome their hostility to hatch a plot of revenge against her.

Presented by Horse Trade Theater Group, in association with Amios Theatre Company, at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, NYC. Dec. 1–17. Schedule varies. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.