The New York Marathon traverses all kinds of neighborhoods—glam and grimy, scenic and forgettable. The first installment of EST’s 2010 marathon of one-act plays displays similar ranginess—bopping from sculpture gardens to cafés to anxious military households. But, like its namesake event, it mostly feels, well, long.
The frontrunner, despite surplus earnestness, is Amy Fox’s timely Where the Children Are. In braided monologues, U.S. servicepeople’s parents relate punishing worries about their children overseas—and the eggshell-walking required when the scarred progeny return.
The rest of the pack hews to well-trodden routes. Adam Kraar’s tame Wild Terrain looses a kvetching elderly couple on some public art to muse about aesthetics and mortality. Ben Rosenthal’s overwrought Safe pits a nebbishy youngster against his wiser-than-thou guardian; Oedipal outbursts ensue.
In his cornpone Matthew and the Pastor’s Wife, Robert Askins ends a predictably lusty encounter between a serial adulterer and a pent-up ecclesiastical spouse with a gruesome twist—visiting Old Testament–style retribution on the smooth-talker, she stitches his mouth shut. And, in Daniel Reitz’s formulaic Turnabout, a prissy liberal confronts his own hypocrisy when he’s forced to beg for a handout from an ex-boyfriend cohabitating with a (gasp!) Republican.
At EST, alas, there were no cups of Gatorade for tuckered spectators, or finish-line tape to burst through. Future installments might consider who’s really running this race.