A series of eight short plays delve into our nation's state of mind in American Psyche, one third of the ambitious ID America Festival. Concerns about global politics, personal safety, and homeland security can all be found in the various plays, which under the unsteady direction of Deena Selenow is nevertheless a good proving ground for several young writers and performers, though not the stuff of great theatregoing.
Psyche gets underway uneasily with a script-in-hand reading of William Kovacsik's Run of the River, a look at a reunion — with an unsurprising twist — between a father (Phillip W. Weiss) and son (Pearce Larson) after a decades-long separation. Things then proceed, promisingly, to Matt Haldeman's Moment, which deftly comments on society's voyeuristic tendencies as a man (Colin Fisher) and woman (Nandini Sonnad) imagine what's taking place between a couple they're watching.
Both Mark Harvey Levine's Superhero, in which two nerdy neighbors realize they can turn only to each other for rescue, and Carl Brandt Long's Soapbox, an absurdist examination of political rhetoric, stumble. But Barbara Lindsay's incisive comedy Here to Serve You stings as a man (also the versatile Fisher) finds himself in the middle of a homeland security nightmare after reporting an unattended shoe at an airport.
Followed, a monologue by Edith Weiss (surely delivered by Julie Katz), proves powerful as a woman imagines the worst as she hears footsteps on her late-night walk home. Erik Christian Hanson's To Darfur skewers with a little too much well-meaning, earnest liberalism as a man (Michael Mergo) drunkenly rants about Sudanese atrocities in a bar but can do nothing more than talk.
Melanie Wallner's Simultaneity, a glimpse into an 18-year-old's privileged, overly medicated world, makes for a satisfying finale. It not only boasts some of the evening's finest writing, but also three heartfelt performances from Chelsea Palano, Elizabeth Romanski, and Hallie York.
Presented by Quo Vadimus Arts as part of the ID America Festival
at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk St., NYC.
Nov. 10-17. Tue. and Fri., 9 p.m.; Thu., 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com or www.idafestival.org.