Written and Directed by Scott Langer (he also appears as principal protagonist; James)

July 11, Marilyn Monroe Theater: Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute

Mr. Langer, a past contributor to WestView News, active in film and a writer of short stories, enjoyed a notable success in his maiden play-writing endeavor at the Strasberg Theater, Union Square.

This tightly constructed one-act play in three extended scenes (50 minutes) explores the state of a young man’s present relationships with three important people in his life – a past girlfriend, his brother, and his on/off current girlfriend.

The events are portrayed within a strict formal context. Each scene consists of an introductory monologue, by Scott’s character James, followed by an extended scene with each taking place in some sort of watering hole. The first girlfriend is introduced as one who was previously more attractive and interesting when last they were in a relationship (think A Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Yet to Come). The older brother is identified as just perfect now and the current girlfriend’s best days are yet to come.

Of course, all this analysis and characterization is James’ and his protagonists do not necessarily share his opinions. Nor do unfolding events tend to confirm his worldview. Complicating and adding a further formal element is James’ interesting experiment in the manner of alchemy in which he promises to prolong the “finest version” of each of the three, if only they would smoke an adulterated electronic cigarette which he has devised.

One might imagine that adherence to such a strict form would straightjacket the author, but actually the opposite occurs. Formality equals freedom to devise and illuminate aspects of human nature that are made even more poignant by their context within a strict structure.

Perhaps the most moving moments of the evening occur in the central scene during which James attempts to normalize his relationship with his brother on the occasion of a birthday visit. Despite his belief that his brother has achieved nirvana, that his “finest version” is now, the reality of their vast differences and interests and a return to the pre-adolescent violence that undoubtedly characterized their childhood ruin the afternoon.

The two young women both express fondness, even love for James, but his relentless dissection and labeling of each relationship is a massive barrier to any acceptance of affection and gives one little hope for optimism at the final curtain.

Claire Austin was appropriately floozy as girlfriend one, Steven Anderson, the most experienced and recognizable actor of the cast found interesting and subtle moments as James’ brother and LaReina Phelan was sexy and funny as the on/off girlfriend who is not especially fond of being touched. In supporting roles, Garrett Paknis, was entertaining in a small part as a gay waiter. The remaining cast of Anna Ladner, Joao Bolina de Matos and Lisa Camarro were all fine.

Mr. Langer acted ably, directed effectively and wrote an entertaining first play. We shall look forward with anticipation to his second.

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