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Marathon 2005: Series C

Presented by and at Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 W. 52nd St., NYC, June 14-26 in rotating repertory with Series B.

The final evening in Marathon 2005, Ensemble Studio Theatre's 27th annual festival of new one-act plays, proves to be a disappointment. At the performance under review, Craig Lucas' one-person play "Your Call Is Important" was canceled due to the performer's indisposition, Kate Long's "Gryzk" went on too long, Horton Foote's "The One-Armed Man" didn't get anywhere, and Romulus Linney's "The Unwritten Song" was charming but basically an illustrated teaching lesson.

In "Gryzk," Kristin Griffith plays Meredith, a mother who adores and excuses all the actions of her difficult 16-year-old son, Kevin. While she waits for him at the beach, she is given the news that the people to whom she sold her house 10 years ago have been brutally murdered there. In flashback, she remembers all her previous conversations with the new owners, Mr. Gryzk and his wife. At 50 minutes, the play takes twice as long as the audience to figure out what has happened. Only Debbie Lee Jones as Meredith's gossipy neighbor Joan adds sparkle to director Evan Bergman's production.

Alternately, Foote's "The One-Armed Man" is too short to make any impression. Ned McHenry has lost his arm in a cotton gin accident. Having been put off by the boss repeatedly, he comes back with a gun and demands to know, "Where is my arm?" That's about it. The real story is never explored. Could this be a scene from a longer play in progress? Harris Yulin directs in a realistic enough fashion, and Matt Mulhern as the boss, Frank Girardeau as his accountant, and Tim Guinee as the fired employee are all believable.

Based on the book "The Unwritten Song," a collection of traditional songs edited and translated by Willard R. Trask, Linney's play of the same name has three ethnic actors declaim the words to songs on various topics such as love, hunting, birth, and war. Although William Jackson Harper, Paco Tolson, and Angel Desai speak and dance effectively, the play, directed by Carlos Armesto, seems like an educational anthropology session. Linney has done this sort of thing better elsewhere.

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