Short plays about love are loaded with surprises
By Dawnell Smith
If you miss the current run of short plays at Out North, you may as well throw away your plates and cups and just eat frozen finger food and drink directly out of the backyard hose. For that matter, you might as well whack yourself with an icy willow branch, toss your billfold in Chester Creek and skate Westchester Lagoon with nothing on but a knit cap and hockey stick.
Act foolish and become the fool; at least that's how I feel after missing every year of "Fourplay" until this week.
Schatzie Schaefers writes spectacular plays. There may be lulls, seemingly shallow characters and potentially predictable outcomes, but she's a master of surprise and a romantic at heart. Besides, this might be her last go at the short form; she's making this third "Fourplay" the last.
So take your cynical, weary, busy behind to Out North and check out "Fourplay," because, believe me, every cynical, weary, busy behind can use a little love, sex and loneliness, especially when served with a cool slice of pie.
I mean, consider this: I saw the show on preview night when the cast and crew were still working out the kinks, but every last cast member pulled his or her weight, however quirky, crude, weepy or rude the character.
If that's not a testament to the playwright's reputation and craft, then I don't know what is.
The first of the four plays, "A Fabulous Coat," posits the singular, solitary lives of Katie (Dana Fahrney) and Eddie (Mark Robokoff) against the assumed attributes of a faux fur coat. The characters speak to the audience, not each other, and the coat represents the one thing that makes Katie feel noticeable, just like the giveaway key chains for Eddie.
The characters -- played deftly if not seamlessly by both actors -- come off as lonely and a little shallow at first but grow on you as they reveal their hopes, flaws and wounds. You can't help but want them to find and embrace each other, but when they do, the line between shallow and deep, joy and sorrow, possibility and regret is revealed with a quiet but masterful poignancy.
The far more absurd "Boysenberry Pie" tells the madcap, sometimes disturbing tale of a group of guys who meet in the basement of a Catholic church to talk about lost love, hardship and penises. The leader of the group, Gary (Frank Delaney), sounds like a game show host guiding men through a pointless but mesmerizing test of manhood.
The script's curl of insight is beautiful in its simplicity -- and quite possibly dead-on.
The ensemble pulls off its roles with relish, from the thuggish but mostly good-hearted Spider (Mark Stoneburner) to the guy everyone knows is gay except himself, Rick (Aron Johnson). OK, I admit that I'm a little tired of this character showing up in film and theater -- and maybe a little suspect of its authenticity -- but it works here.
A companion piece, "Cherry Pie," counters with the women's view, this time a realist's take on a handful of wounded women who use a candle party as a ruse for grinding against a male stripper.
As single mom Sherry (Whitney Lowell) deals with one distraction after another -- the woes of motherhood -- her guests divulge their embarrassments and losses, betraying their own frailties and biases along the way. The piece requires a different kind of attention and patience from the audience than does "Boysenberry Pie" because it moves with smaller motions and understandings, even as its plot intersects the other.
The last of the four plays, "X & Q Right Next to Each Other," mirrors the first through the tenuous, painful interplay of two people separated by circumstance, time, choice, the unknown. Looking radiant and even motherly, Schatzie plays a 30-something woman with an untold connection to a troubled teen, Drake.
Jon Minton takes an engagingly direct approach to Drake, connecting with the audience despite (or perhaps because of) his character's rage, cynicism, sorrow, brilliance, despair and hope.
I won't ruin the surprise, but the piece ends with a curious facet of what we think, imagine, believe and hope about love.
Herein lies Schaefers' gift: However entrenched the communal cynic, she unearths the romantic in everyone.
Daily News reporter Dawnell Smith can be reached at 257-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOURPLAY continues at 7 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday at Out North, 3800 DeBarr Road. Tickets: $12 online, $15 at the door. (www.out north.org; www.schatzieplays.com) Comment on this review or other performances at