Theater / Film

Review: From Hilarious To Heartfelt, City Theatre Strikes A Balance With 27th ‘Summer Shorts’

Written By Mary Damiano
June 20, 2024 at 7:40 PM

One of the featured plays in City Theatre’s “Summer Shorts: Flipping the Script,” “Swordfish Grilled (So I Don’t Get Sued”), with Nat Ordoñez and Therese Adelina was written by local playwright Maleeha Naseer. “Shorts” runs through Sunday, June 23. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

A prospective customer has an awkward encounter with an employee over a piercing, a teen learns of her neighbor’s sad past, and a biblical story is given the “what if?” treatment in “Summer Shorts Flipping the Script, playing through Sunday, June 23, inside the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

“Summer Shorts” is City Theatre’s signature event, and “Flipping the Script” is its 27th edition of the short play program which is, for many, the official start of the summer theater season. Although past additions of “Summer Shorts” have featured many nationally well-known playwrights, this summer is all about locals and newbies.

Toddra Brunson and Kimberly Vilbrun-Francois in Nerissa Street’s “Leaving Jamaica.” (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

Four of the playwrights, Brittany “bk” King, Maleeha Naseer, Nerissa Street, and Brandon Urrutia are from City Theatre’s Homegrown Playwrights Development Program. The other four, John Bavoso, Rhiannon Ling, R.D. Murphy, and Karissa Murrell Myers, are finalists in the Susan J. Westfall National Short Playwriting Contest. (Westfall is one of the founders of City Theatre, and, after guiding the company for years, is now on their board.) The result is eight short plays with new perspectives and diverse voices.

The terrific ensemble cast features Therese Adelina, Alex Alvarez, Toddra Brunson, Devon A. Dassaw, Chris Anthony Ferrer, Diana Garle, and Kimberly Vilbrun-Francois. Karina Batchelor, Sabrina Lynn Gore, JC Gutierrez, Carey Brianna Hart, and Stephen Trovillion are the five directors for “Summer Shorts, Flipping the Script” — Alvarez, Gore, and Trovillion have been part of the acting ensemble in past “Summer Shorts.”

[RELATED: Homegrown Playwrights Talk About Their Summer Shorts]

The plays run the gamut in plot and tone — from hilarity to heartbreak, from quirky to creepy — and feature situations both relatable and original, with fleshed-out characters, and great imagination.

Chris Anthony Ferrer in “Manic Pixie Dream Girl Goes To Brunch” by Rhiannon Ling. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

“Manic Pixie Dream Girl Goes to Brunch,” written by Ling, directed by Gore, and featuring Adelina, Deesaw, Ferrera, and Garle, is set during a Zoom call. It is a funny and introspective look at the relationship between four college students as each of them tries to reconcile their high school persona with the person they’ve become.

Did you ever wonder what the walk home was like after Abraham lured his son Isaac to the mountain and didn’t sacrifice him to God? “An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah,” written by Bavoso, directed by Trovillion and featuring Alvarez as Abraham and Ferrer as Isaac, provides a hilarious yet touching answer to that question.

In “Leaving Jamaica,” written by Street, one of the local playwrights, is a funny yet poignant story of a student who struggles with leaving her island paradise, and her mother, who wants her to explore the world. Directed by Hart, the short play features Brunson, Vilbrun-Francois, and Francian Sonique,

Urrutia, another member of the Homegrown Playwrights, offers “Dickery Pokery” about a Claire’s jewelry store employee who is out of her element when a man comes in with a coupon and requests a different kind of piercing. Directed by Batchelor with Vilbrun-Francois and Alvarez, who are fantastic, make “Dickey Pokery the most hilarious short in the program.

“Dickery Pokery” by Brandon Urrutia with Kimberly Vilbrun-Francois and Alex Alvarez. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

“This Week in the Land of Democracy,” written by King, also a Homegrown Playwright, and directed by Gore, is about what happens when a student, played by Brunson, discovers that her professor has altered her virtual reality project and turned it into something sinister.

“Search for an Ending,” written by Myers and directed by Hart, is a funny and all-too-familiar tale of mansplaining by two male screenwriters, Dassaw and Ferrer, working on a movie with a female protagonist, yet neither bother to listen to the only woman in the room, played by Garle.

In the loveliest play in the program, “The Pros and Cons of Implosion” by Murphy and directed by Trovillion, Adelina plays an extremely smart college-bound car enthusiast who discovers some shocking information about a neighbor, played by Alvarez, when she tries to goad him into letting her restore his classic Volvo. Tissues are in order for this funny and heart-wrenching gem.

“The Pros and Cons of Implosion” by R.D. Murphy with Therese Adelina and Alex Alvarez. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

The laughs come in Spanish and English in “Swordfish Grilled (So I Don’t Get Sued)” written by local playwright Naseer and directed by Gutierrez. It’s a play tailor-made for  Miami audiences. Chaos and wackiness abound as the staff of a Kendall restaurant, Adelina, Deesaw, Ferrer, Garle, Nat Ordoñez, and Cristian Torres, prepare for an important corporate visit while dealing with an unusual situation in the ladies’ room.

The ensemble cast is adept at changing characters from one play to the next and displays a frenetic energy and enthusiasm. They are ably supported by a group of emerging artists, Ordoñez, Dorian Caty, Emily Coll, Amanda Leslie, Sheena O. Murray, Francian Sonique, and Cristian Torres. Each director has different challenges with the plays but creates a cohesive program.

The design elements are first-rate —a special shout-out to Ernesto K. Gonzalez for his sound design and also his clever song choices, which he chose in collaboration with the directing team and Margaret M. Ledford, City Theatre’s artistic director.

“An Awkward Conversation in the Shadow of Mount Moriah” by John Bavoso with Chris Anthony Ferrer and Alex Alvarez. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Sophia Photography)

There are only a few more chances to catch “Summer Shorts Flipping the Script”, one of the best ways to have some smart, cool fun during the first official weekend of summer.

WHAT: “Summer Shorts: Flipping the Script”

 WHERE: Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through June 23. 

COST: $50 and $75 (student tickets $15 with ID)

INFORMATION:  305-949-6722 or arshtcenter.org

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