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Queens Chronicle

Love, drugs and a reading series

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:30 am

The stage is dark. Three actors, dressed in black, sit on folding metal chairs with their scripts on their laps. Only one prop sits on stage — a six-pack of Bud Light — next to actor Ryan Feyk as quick witted, life-flounderer, comic book enthusiast Cameron. “Long Distance Drunk” by Modest Mouse plays on the loudspeakers.

Playwright Corey Pajka said he heard the song years ago and the title intrigued him. It eventually became the name of his romantic comedy — dealing with addiction, long-distance phone calls, and love and loss — read on July 15 at The Creek and The Cave Theater in Long Island City.

“Long Distance Drunk” is one of 10 scripts read by actors, some of Broadway caliber, on a sprinkling of Sundays as part of the Platform Group’s Ladder Series, a reading sequence that gives playwrights a chance to hear their stories out loud.

“I get to see what works in Vront of an audience,” said Pajka, adding that the crowd laughed at unexpected lines. Pajka hopes to rework the script based on some audience reactions, and then start pitching it to different production houses.

The Platform Group, which produced a sold-out off-Broadway performance of “Savage in Limbo” last year, didn’t have enough funding this year to put on a full production, so the idea to host an affordable reading series arose to give writers a “platform” to propel their works forward.

And many playwrights wanted to participate; the 10 readings were selected out of 100 applications. A panel of five read through each submission twice and then voted. Each play needed two votes to move forward.

The group narrowed the selection down to 18 and Platform Group Artistic Director Shara Zeiger made the final cut.

A question-and-answer session follows each one, “just as important as the reading,” said Zeiger, who will perform in the July 29 reading of “The Perfect Bride.”

Sunday’s reading of “The Bus Test” by foreign policy journalist David Meyers takes a darkly comedic look at Wall Street and playing guitar.

Each director manages the reading differently, Zeiger said. Some directors prefer the actors to stand and emote, while other allow the performers to relax.

The actors for the reading of “Long Distance Drunk” stayed seated for the entire time, but nevertheless the audience was enthralled.

Pajka’s story of a couple who fights with addiction while trying to stay together and then tries unsuccessfully to stay apart, is both heartbreaking and hilarious.

The play starts with a drunk phone call from Cameron to Meg, played by Mariah Freda.

“What type of girlfriend are you?” Cameron slurs.

“An ex-girlfriend,” Meg sleepily retorts from a phone in a time zone where it is four hours later.

The play continues, skipping back and forth between moments in time, mostly in bedrooms and over phone lines, but with Meg and Cameron always seeking each other out, either mutually or unilaterally.

Cameron has a humor that keeps the audience laughing even through sad scenes, and Meg shows a devotion to being loved and to loving that like in many romantic comedies makes the audience ask why, but also induces that hopelessly romantic “awww” feeling.

‘The Ladder Series’

When: July 29, Aug. 19 and 26, Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30, and Oct. 7; all at 1 p.m.

Where: The Creek and The Cave Theater, 10-93 Jackson Ave., Long Island City

Tickets: $7, theplatformgroup.org

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