A Lovelorn Aniston, Gloomy Shawn and Near-Nude Lillard Took the Stage in 24 Hour Plays on Broadway

News   A Lovelorn Aniston, Gloomy Shawn and Near-Nude Lillard Took the Stage in 24 Hour Plays on Broadway Jennifer Aniston as a gal looking for intimacy, Wallace Shawn sulking as a once-great organist and Matthew Lillard leaping onto the stage in his underwear: Those were some of the many moments of The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway Oct. 23.
Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston

They Might Be Giants opened the show (and provided interstitial music) following performances by two student performers selected by Working Playground, co-presenters for the sixth annual star-studded benefit evening (with Moxie Pictures, Gran Centenario Tequila and The 24 Hour Company).

In the crowd, stars Naomi Watts, Jeremy Sisto, Thom Filicia and Mark Feuerstein watched as some stage veterans and newcomers alike tackled the hot-out-of-the-printer ten-minute plays penned only hours before by the likes of Tony Award winner Terrence McNally, Adam Bock, Adam Rapp, Julia Cho, Tina Howe and seasoned one-act scribe David Ives. The short works were hastily staged by directors Miguel Arteta, Elinor Renfield, Ian Morgan, Andrew McCarthy, Bennett Miller and Josie Rourke.

The full one-day process of The 24-Hour Plays begins at 10 PM the night prior to performance. Typically, a group of theatre artists (playwrights, directors, actors and designers) meet and are briefed and photographed. The writers are then left to their own wits to produce a ten-minute play. The following morning at 7 AM, the directors give the scripts a once-over, divvy them up and cast them. Actors make their entrance at 8 AM and rehearse through the day. The technical rehearsals run from 5 PM to 7:30 PM. Doors open at 7:45 PM and curtain rises at 8 PM and voila: six shows, all in a day's work.

Michael Ealy, Amy Ryan, Liev Schreiber and Pablo Schreiber played two couples incited by the changing (or unchanging) world around them in McNally's The Sunday Times. In Bock's Three Girls and Bob, Jennifer Aniston, Rosie Perez and Lynn Whitfield were a trio of smart, successful and beautiful women who find themselves at a conference about finding intimacy, while David Cross was the unsuspecting man — sent to the supposed spa retreat by a spiteful ex-girlfriend — who happens upon them. Rapp weaved another gritty tale in Jack on Film, where two random men (John Hawkes and Matthew Lillard) are brought to a remote home and offered money to simply be filmed (or maybe it's not that simple); Sam Rockwell and Erika Christensen also inhabited the clandestine audition.

The second act began with Cho's The First Tree in Antarctica, featuring Rachel Dratch as a woman troubled by her dreams of Antarctica and Juliana Margulies as her sister with Nia Vardalos as a mom who convinces her adopted son (Kieran Culkin) to call his birth mother. Ives crafted a haunting tale with The Blizzard about a couple (Fisher Stevens and Anna Paquin) who are preparing for another dull night in their mansion when, during a snowstorm, another couple (Aasif Mandavi and Gaby Hoffman) arrives claiming to have come in lieu of the filmmaker-owner's brother and wife. Wallace Shawn was among the many to chew the scenery — which happened to be the set of Broadway's current Heartbreak House at the American Airlines Theatre — as a woebegone organist in Howe's Toccata and Fugue, accompanied by his accordion-playing mute (They Might Be Giants member John Linnell), who vowed to never play again until his daughter (Catherine Tate) introduces him to her new paramour (Elizabeth Berkeley-Lauren), who was at the very concert that made him end his career. For more information on the benefit and the company, visit www.24hourplays.com.