Review: 'Summer Shorts' offer refreshing comedies

Associated Press
This undated photo released by David Gersten & Associates shows, from left, Victor Slezak, Alicia Goranson, and J.J. Kandel, in a scene from Neil LaBute’s "The Furies," part of Summer Shorts 2012 Series B at 59E59Theatres in New York.  (AP Photo/David Gersten & Associates, Rahav Iggy Segey)
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This undated photo released by David Gersten & Associates shows, from left, Victor Slezak, Alicia Goranson, and J.J. Kandel, in a scene from Neil LaBute’s "The Furies," part of Summer Shorts 2012 Series B at 59E59Theatres in New York. (AP Photo/David Gersten & Associates, Rahav Iggy Segey)

NEW YORK (AP) — It's a refreshing treat during the summer theater hiatus to view some of the confections in "Summer Shorts 2012." On offer in Series B are three new comedies, one of them a musical. Each has its own special charm with a surprising twist, and the otherwise unrelated trio is unified by gay themes and various off-beat senses of humor by the writers.

The comedies perform within a total of 95 minutes, off-Broadway at 59E59 Theatres. First up is Paul Rudnick's one-man monologue, "Cabin Pressure," directed by Walter Bobbie. It features a marvelously flakey Peter Bartlett as Ronald, a humble, extremely digressive airline steward receiving a presidential medal of honor for thwarting a terrorist.

Bartlett skillfully reveals his character's true feelings as Ronald pleasantly ambles through his recollections of the big day, with rising animus toward rude, unpleasant passengers. Typical of Rudnick, the plot veers headlong into satire on a slippery slope of irony, capped off by a nice dig at the financial industry.

"Love and Real Estate," an accomplished production with book and lyrics by Sean Hartley and music by Sam Davis, is a Manhattan-centric musical mystery about the lengths some people will go to in order to live in a great apartment. Directed with a flair for the comedic by Devanand Janki, the musical has a light-hearted look and feel.

Amusingly narrated by Edward Hibbert, it's the cautionary fable of three sisters who buy great apartments in New York City and then seem to disappear after being visited by a mysterious young man (disarmingly portrayed by Kevin Greene). The sisters are enacted with spirit by Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Sarah Corey and Jessica Hershberg, and the songs are bright and tuneful, varying from pop music to operatic melodrama.

The grouping ends on a hilariously vengeful note with Neil LaBute's suspenseful "The Furies," directed for maximum humor by Stephen Hamilton. There's only one fury but she's a real doozie, as fiercely portrayed by Alicia Goranson, who is wickedly funny as overly-protective Jamie. She belligerently joins her recently-dispossessed brother, Jimmy, (a sweetly downcast J.J. Kandel), for a meeting with Barry, his obviously lying, much older lover (Victor Slezak.)

Barry is clearly dumping Jimmy, but won't admit it, and Slezak gives a squirming annoyance to Barry's misplaced confidence in his ability to carry off a grand deception when faced with Goranson's mute, steely glare. Her distrustful stink eye and use of furiously tense body language as she whispers suspiciously in her brother's ear is comically masterful. Although it goes on just a bit too long, Goranson creates even more roars of laughter when Jamie is finally moved to speak.

"Summer Shorts 2012, Series B" plays through Sept. 1, definitely brightening up the dog days of August.

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