Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
Sometimes "New York Street Show," a quintet of one-acts directed by Fredric Lee at Back Alley Theatre, sounds as if it's designed primarily for your listening pleasure. The ears of the audience get an evening of satisfying exercise, and the show is interesting enough for the eyes, too.
The brain, though, barely gets nudged out of bed.
Except for the common residence of their authors, these plays haven't much to do with New York, or with ech other. Back Alley has worked hard to tie them all together. And overture presents most of the characters cavorting on the same New York streets. In between plays we hear recorded odes to New York.
But the evening assumes no intellectual shape. The artifical glue imposed by the production is diverting but not particularly convincing.
The most substantial of the works - "Gentlemen Caller" by Ed Bullins - is the least New York-oriented of the plays. Its subject, more or less, is the entire history of American black-white relations presented in the form of a tart encounter of three classic American caricatures - the white madame, the black mammy and the silent, respectable figure representing the black bourgeoisie coming to call on white America.
The broad characterizations of Jacquelyn LaBarro and Raymond Greed approach the grotesque but stop short just in time to catch some bitter laughter.
Two short works by Robert Somerfeld - "Silent Men" and "The Intermission" - use no words and a few too many words, respectively, to arouse some sly fnatasies. Of the two, "Silent Men" is acted with more precision, but its point is more pat.
Louis Vuolo's "Playground," a tale of an old windbag who finds you can't go home again, is even less enterprising. But by far the emptiest of the lot is "Paper Toilet" by Miguel Pinero, sad to say. A burlesque set in a subway john, "Paper Toilet" must be a first, very rough, darft.
Until "Toilet" concludes the evening with its interminable smirk, "New York Street Show" does keep the senses occupied. Jane Osmann's visual design and all those sounds - ice cream trucks and balls and spirituals and phones and other street noises - are as interesting as the scripts themselves.