Famed acting teacher Sanford Meisner spent more than 60 years evolving methods that brought the talents of numerous stars to fruition. His techniques yield impressive performances from trainees in the Sunday program of "The Sanford Meisner One-Act Festival" in a NoHo studio (formerly the home of Acme Comedy Theatre).
Meisner's instructional approach emphasizes realistic interaction between actors. The nuances of well-delivered dialogue and precision reactions receive a sterling showcase, for the most part, in the evening's trio of plays.
But also apparent is the company's lack of expertise in logistics, resulting in delayed starts and excruciatingly extended scene changes. The worst offenses undermine the otherwise appealing opener, "A Young Lady of Property." Horton Foote's touching slice of Southern small-town life features Andrea Adams as a 15-year-old who loses her idealistic dreams in a wounding conflict with her glib, selfish father (Darrell Gurney). Director Reza Bayidi sensitively evokes Foote's innate compassion for his frail, imperfect characters, but the unnecessarily elaborate sets sometimes take as long to put up as the scenes themselves. Delicate supporting performances from Rosa Kesser, Wylie Small, and Jhoanna Trias are worth the wait.
The more successful "I'm Still Crying," a new work by Martin Barter, depicts a tense reunion between two former college roommates--a wildly successful soap opera star (Robert Mackey) and a department store manager (Martin Newcott) who abandoned his own acting career. Larry Cohen's crisp direction keeps us edgily off-base with surprise twists in their adversarial psychodrama.
The weakest installment is Leonard Melfi's "Bird Bath," a contrived Alfred Hitchcock-esque character study involving a poet (Kelly Edward Nelson) who runs the cash register in a greasy spoon, and the creepy busgirl (Kelly Maguire) he tries to pick up. Director David Ridenhour shamelessly milks the weirdness and takes too long to get to the inevitable dark revelation. The piece could easily have been omitted from an evening that makes an unjustified four-hour demand on its audience.
* "Sanford Meisner One-Act Festival" (Program Three), Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts, 5124 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood. Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends June 25. $10. (818) 509-9651. Running time: 4 hours.