For six seasons, Island City Stage and Miami’s City Theatre have offered audiences the opportunity to while away the muggy evenings of summer with “Shorts Gone Wild,” a program of LGBT-themed short plays.
The latest offering, which opened last weekend and runs through Aug. 26, follows a tried and true format with the audience selecting the order of the seven 10-minute plays, but thematically, “Shorts Gone Wild” treads beyond the familiar gay, lesbian and occasional transgender themes of past seasons:
“Defender of the Tender Gender Bender” by Rich Orloff and directed by Andy Rogow is the story of young parents (Christina Groom and Daniel Llaca) who must explain to their young intersex son (Noah Levine) that his new school will allow him to select whichever bathroom “they” prefer. The parents quickly discover that rationalizing with a child—intersex or not—is rarely easy.
“Plus One” by John Bavoso and directed by John Manzelli proves that sexual orientation has become even more complicated to the world of millennials as a lesbian’s “date”—a pansexual, cisgender female—causes a scene at a family wedding after Grandma proves to be a bigot. Groom and Casey Sacco star as the combative couple.
In “Crass Menagerie,” Orloff’s queer parody of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” directed by Gail Garrison, the “Wingnut” family (Groom, Jovan Jacobs, Daryl Patrice) proves dysfunction is relative, especially when a kinky gentleman caller (Levine) arrives to court wheelchair-bound Clara.
One of the most inspired plays is Joe Gulla’s “Sleeping with the Fish,” a testy lover’s quarrel between two gay mafia “goodfellas” (Llaca and Levine) that plays out on the Staten Island Ferry after the guys dump the remains of a romantic rival in the river. Thanks to John Manzelli’s campy direction, this play powerfully demolishes gay stereotypes.
Perhaps the funniest play is “Triple Threat” from Michael Leeds, a Tony-nominated director. At this performance, his hilarious story of an unusually endowed actress’s audition for “Oklahoma,” very effectively opened the show. The play is loaded with Broadway insider jokes—a Leeds signature—and offers one of the most unpredictable punchlines of the evening.
Speaking of punchlines, don’t expect “Shorts Gone Wild” to reveal any great truths about society or life or even sexual orientation and identity. The short plays often feel more like “Saturday Night Live” or “MadTV” sketches. Levine’s portrayal of Sandy from “Tender Gender Bender” is particularly reminiscent of Michael McDonald’s “Stuart” character from “Mad TV”—and he’s very funny.
In previous editions, the quality of writing has been uneven at best, but not this year. With one exception, the juvenile musical “What Happened at the Dolphin Show” by Miranda Rose Hall, the plays are clever, fast-paced and ultimately performed with energy, especially by the effervescent veterans Groom and Levine. Equally creative lighting effects from Ardean Landhuis and inventive sound design by David Hart also keep the format fresh and make “Shorts Gone Wild 6” a perfect summertime diversion.
Island City Stage and City Theatre present “Shorts Gone Wild 6” through Aug. 26 at Island City Stage, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org.