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Encounters: 6 One-Act Plays

Encounters: 6 One-Act Plays
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Leonard Melfi
Publisher: Samuel French (cover image may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 192
Pub. Date: 2010
ISBN-10: 0573600376
ISBN-13: 9780573600371

About the Play:

Birdbath has long been a favourite of acting teachers for Female Monologues and Female/Male Scenes.

The volume Encounters contains a collection of six one-act dramas by Leonard Melfi. These amazing one-act plays about uptight people looking for fulfilling styles of love were presented by Cafe La Mama Repertory Company and Theater Genesis in Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway venues. Probably the one which has enjoyed the greatest number of productions is the fringe festival favourite Birdbath, an off-beat encounter between an obsessive young man and a murderous young woman – it's now considered one of the finest plays of its time. By contrast the surreal fantasy Times Square is peopled by childlike dreamers inhabiting the seedy side of New York. Other encounters in this volume include Ferryboat, Lunchtime, Halloween, and The Shirt.

Birdbath is a most uncomfortable boy-meets-girl story that brings together an unsuccessful writer Frankie and flustered, young waitress Velma. It is Frankie's first night as a cashier at the all night restaurant in Manhattan where Velma works, and they initiate an awkward connection. It is obvious that she does not want to return home to the Bronx where she lives with her mother, so he convinces her to come to his apartment. By turns funny and shockingly depressing, the dialogue reveals their characters – two lonely misfits in the big city who both need a sympathetic ear. He gets drunk and entices her to drink a little. He tries to seduce her in the mildest manner possible. She resists in the most devastating way imaginable, turning the evening into a nightmare for both of them. Uncompromising and intense, it has become a favourite scene study vehicle in acting classes and workshops. Originally called Coffeecake and Caviar, its name was changed to Birdbath, it became hugely popular and toured Europe. (Premiered at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery in 1965; Cast: 1 female, 1 male)

Ferryboat takes place on a Staten Island ferryboat where a young man deals with his frustrations in impressing and picking up a young woman. Joey is searching the Ferry as it leaves Manhattan. He boldly sits down besides a girl and tries to strike up a conversation. He realizes he isn't getting anywhere but decides to continue telling her about himself anyway. When the boat is ready to dock the girl finally reacts, coolly insulting Joey. He lashes back at her, finally being honest, and discovers this is the way he should have communicated with her in the first place. (Premiered at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery in 1965; Cast: 1 female, 1 male)

Halloween brings together a lonely and sexually maladjusted young man and a warm and honest cleaning lady. Luke, thirty, has finally broken away from his parents and moved to a Manhattan roach infested, furnished room – and he's just been robbed of all his belongings, including expensive gifts from his family. A meeting with the building's cleaning lady turns into an afternoon of revelations. Painful and embarrassing truths lead to temporary comfort and understanding human contact. (Premiered at the Playwrights Unit in 1967; Cast: 1 female, 1 male)

Lunchtime is about a mating dance between an unhappy housewife and the handyman she hires. Avis is waiting for Rex in the bedroom of her duplex apartment in Greenwich Village. He arrives at high noon ready to refinish a piece of furniture. Avis is rich, beautiful and married with no children. Rex is poor, handsome, married and has a little boy. Both are unhappy and lonely; a modern Beauty and the Beast who convince themselves that the memory of the afternoon is better than no memory at all. (Premiered in 1966; Cast: 1 female, 1 male)

The Shirt is a study of calculated viciousness and sadism. A charming Southern gentleman, Clarence, has come up for a weekend visit to New York. He meets an interracial couple, Twila and her boyfriend Marcey. They become a friendly trio, and go up to Clarence's hotel room to drink. During the evening Clarence takes their pictures, watches them dance, and shows them a newspaper clipping and photograph of himself. Eventually Clarence puts on "the shirt" before their very eyes and a terrifying transformation takes place. (Premiered in 1967; Cast: 1 female, 2 male)

Times Square is a romantic, surrealistic, modern fantasy that takes place during a twenty four hour period on New York's Forty-Second Street. Seven lovable misfits encounter a modern version of Snow White when she descends from a golden ladder. She saves them; she is destroyed senselessly and they are destroyed automatically; she is brought back to life and they are all saved. (Premiered at Experimenta II in Frankfurt, Germany in 1967; Cast: 4 female, 3 male)

What people say:

"The chief marvel of Encounters, whether seen or read, is the mystery and surprise of the encounters themselves. Here, meeting each other in New York for the first time, are people we have never met before either. They are no other playwright's stock characters from nobody else's little old New York. We may recognize them from across the street, but they are standing on Melfi's own corner. They are honest individuals caught in the accident of encounter." — Life Magazine

"Leonard Melfi's Encounters are six sudden shocks. They introduce us to a world undiscovered by most of us who frequent the bright but narrow Broadway theatrical scene. Melf's plays combine a twisted tenderness, a crushed pathos with frightening power. There is a tremor in them which must bring terror and pity (accompanied by an unwonted laughter) to those unfamiliar with the dark places of our city and the increasingly important byways of the American stage." — Harold Clurman, influential and respected American theatre director and drama critic

About the Playwright:

Leonard Melfi (1932-2001) was an American playwright and actor whose work has been widely produced on the American stage. He started writing original acting scenes while studying in Uta Hagen's famed acting classes and first came to the attention of American theatregoers with his short plays for Café La Mama, a birthplace for the off-off Broadway fringe in the 1960s. Best known for known for creating characters who were social outcasts, often hiding dark secrets, he wrote or contributed to over 70 plays, including his classic Birdbath.

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