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First Light: A Festival of New Short Plays (Program A)

Presented by Circle East Theater Company and Chashama at Chashama, 135 W. 42 St., NYC, June 12-29.

First light is literally falling on premiere playlets being presented by Circle East, with alternately bright and murky results.

"Mermaids on the Hudson" by Anastasia Traina examines a strained (and strange) relationship. A couple flirts and bickers on a riverbank, culminating in unrequited aggravation. Dyanne Court and Edmund Wilkinson find very little chemistry together, which could be what director Mary F. Monroe was going for.

"This Will Be the Death of Him" by David DeWitt also deals with relationships—one man's love for his deceased brother, another man's inner longing, a third man's mysterious connection. Direction by Vernice Miller and performances by Timothy Devlin, Richard Hoehler, and Eddie Marrero are convincing enough, but DeWitt's dramatic payoff isn't as emotionally stirring as intended.

Richard Cottrell's "The Longshot" comes out smelling like a horseshoe of roses. Set in a New York OTB location, two horserace bettors wait out the results of a supposed "sure thing." Cottrell's plot twist has been seen before, but his loveable losers are fresh creations, well portrayed by Andrew Finney and Jim Ireland. Director Elaine Molinaro successfully balances the broad comedic horseplay with quieter moments of male bonding.

"Your Call Is Important" by Craig Lucas is the evening's unqualified winner. Lucas introduces us to Dolores, a woman whose frantic musings on her mother, marriage, and murder are both universal and unique. Marie-Louise Miller stages Lucas' multiscene monologue with energy and wit, and actress Anne-Marie Cusson is unabashedly warm and whimsical.

Lisa L. Humbertson's "Lily of the Valley" ends the evening on a fanciful note. An elderly woman struggles to live life and find love, despite being confined to a hospital bed. Her daughter tries to reason with her, but the reasons aren't particularly convincing to anyone. Judith Hiller and Janice O'Dell give touching performances under Erma Duricko's direction.

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