Five plays. Seventy minutes. Twenty-five bucks. Worth it?
By Andrew Andrews
American Fables is a collection of five plays by a single playright, Eric Fallen: each story features two actors and is less than fifteen minutes long.
In every tale there is a confrontation between the characters, and in two of the five, it goes so far as to be an interrogation: from the torturous questioning of an expat to a subtle conversation between a man and woman on a park bench. There’s also a scene where a woman demands a book from a small town librarian two minutes before closing time and another in which a mother demands answers from a military officer about her son’s death in combat. But the most subtle confrontation occurs when one lawyer has to talk down a colleague after his office has been raided by the FBI.
The set for this production is a simple white wall with a door behind an empty white-floored stage; the actors move the minimum necessary furniture and props on and off between each play. The performers who aren’t in a scene sit in a row of chairs along either side, giving the sense that they’re additional audience members arranged around a thrust stage.
As with any confrontation, the situations are full of tension, balanced with plenty of comic relief—sometimes, enough to keep you guessing as to whether the story is more of a comedy, or more of a drama. I enjoyed all of the pieces, watching them unfold and wondering where things were going and how they would wind up. In the first two stories I felt a bit cheated, as they ended on a cliffhanger, begging for Act II to follow the intermission; two of the pieces wrapped up nicely; and the ending of the remaining story took me pleasantly by surprise.
The writing, performance and tech for this production are all good, although I did notice one or another actor trip over their lines a few times. Balancing the simplicity of the set against the size of the eight-person cast, the price tag seems just about right. And although this production was a wee bit less engaging than Nothing Gold Can Stay, the spacious, raised seating and intimate presentation helped make the experience both comfortable and pleasurable.
Andrew Andrews attended American Fables at HERE Mainstage in Manhattan on Thursday, October 10, 2019 @ 8:30pm to write this review.
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