The Journal News
Love, New York-style at Pleasantville's Axial Theatre
April 19, 2007

When you find a playwright who speaks your language, rush to her, even if it means climbing the steep stairs to a third-floor studio theater in Pleasantville.

In the Axial Theatre's latest creation, "Two Hearts: Chance Encounters and Unlikely Connections," Linda Giuliano proves herself an authentic New York theater voice. Make that an authentic New York cacophony of voices.

The result is a thoughtful and emotionally engaging evening of new theater. You'll see yourself, or a friend or an ex-friend on stage, and you'll be talking about the four vignettes long after you climb back down onto Wheeler Avenue.

Giuliano gives us four one-acts set on the same snowy Saturday night in Brooklyn. The first two are laugh-out-loud funny-sweet. The last two offer desperate reaching. Each scene has its own director and its own pace, though they are connected by the appearances of a Chinese-food bicycle-delivery person. He's aided by Anita J. LaScala's sets that spread out across the long, narrow stage area.

Weekday rush-hour subway pals Tom (Ryan Mallon) and Sonia (Margie Ferris) meet in familiar territory but out of their comfort zone in "One Hour Martinizing." She has memorized their fleeting conversations and thinks it's time to take the next step and shoot for a relationship on solid ground. He thinks she's fat, below his fantasy standard. People, they stay within their categories, he says. She cries. He comforts her: Your have nice hair, he says. Your hands don't look fat. There are countries where chubby women are worshiped.

She blows her nose in his jacket, then offers to have it cleaned. He says that's OK. You really memorized my stories?

So he stays on past his stop. Love isn't the object here, just potential. Isn't ease of conversation one foundation of a relationship?

Ferris and Mallon easily establish their characters as the kind of people you see talking every day, but never notice. He preens appropriately. She cringes, then gets angry, then sad.

Give credit to the playwright for not throwing them together with the wobble of the subway car.

"Cuban Chinese" is a trio. Emily (Rachel Ann Jones) is a social worker who is taking swimming lessons for phobics - it takes four classes before she puts her face in the water - and the very New York pilgrimage to adult driving lessons. David (Neil Mautone) is an analyst who wants Emily to join his practice. No, that's not right. He just wants Emily to stop dithering and realize he wants her. And Luke (Stephen Palgon) is a famous actor who picks up his takeout order at Los Cucharachas Orientales and starts eating it with them rather than going home to his empty apartment.