One of the most magnificent theater spaces in New York City, Symphony Space at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, held an evening event entitled Selected Shorts: The Best American Short Stories 2022, which was also available streaming.
Author and professor Andrew Sean Greer hosted the program and showcased the three short stories to an exceptionally enthusiastic crowd.
Greer revealed his top three choices for the night. First was The Little Widow from the Capital by Yohanca Delgado and performed by Krystina Alabado (Mean Girls on Broadway), followed by The Hollow by Greg Jackson and read by Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), and Ten Year Affair by Erin Somers, recited by veteran actor Holly Hunter (The Piano). He noted all three authors were in the audience.
Greer also shared how he chose The Little Widow from the Capital for the evening. “I have a secret to tell you,” he said with a chuckle. Greer was teaching a short story writing section at Stanford University in the spring, and this was one of their favorite stories. He confessed he had a class of super-fussy students who weren’t in the audience. They “loved the energy of expression, the fascinating point of view, and the extraordinary taken for granted as ordinary.”
Delgado, of Cuban and Dominican Republic descent, is a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts fellow and this story appeared in issue 236 of the Paris Review in the spring of 2021.
Alabado, with perfect Latina diction, entertained the audience with a story taking place in New York City, told through the eyes of unnamed characters pondering the identity of the little widow from Santo Domingo. Part fairytale, mystery, and voodoo, The Little Widow is a story of an unhappy marriage, death, and a jilted lover wrapped in a mastery of words on a page you don’t want to stop hearing Alabado read out loud. The surprise ending leaves you spellbound, wanting more.
Next up was Dancy, reading a condensed version of The Hollow, written by Greg Jackson and a story that was another Greer class favorite. Greer said he admired how the story started with long lyrical sentences and Jackson’s control as he switches to shorter ones at the end. Again, he praised Jackson’s ability to “bend words to tell a story.” Jackson received the Bard Fiction Prize and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker as well.
The Hollow is a story about Jonah Valente, a man who claims his fame as a footballer in college, changes his mind and major, takes up painting and drugs, and eventually gets expelled from school. He justifies his expulsion as his punishment for quitting football, but in reality, he’s burned out of all of life’s events.
Valente’s relationships with his classmate Jack, and even his girlfriend Sophie, are the story of a troubling life continually searching for a human bond. Even when Sophie left him, he rationalized he couldn’t control her and let her go. Years later, she ended up with Jack.
Listeners to this tale of justification soon realize Jonah lived a life of never accomplishing or finishing a thing. After studying Van Gogh, he develops an obsequious obsession with the painter. Valente claimed Van Gogh painted from loneliness and sadness. The Hollow is a story of Valente’s despair. He holds on to a vague memory about the hollow in Jack’s hallway not belonging to any room in the house. Perhaps this area of no use is also a metaphor for Valente’s life. Jackson has written the story to let the reader or listener decide.
“That was really a spectacular performance,” Greer said. “Hugh Dancy did a good job capturing those short moments that closed the story.”
Next up was the shortest story of the evening, Ten Year Affair. Greer mentioned that the mermaid of the story appeared in the timeline. He said, “My students were not inspired to imitate it because you can’t imitate it. You just can’t pull it off any day of the week.” Greer noted a shock of satisfaction occurring when reading the end of the story. The story is filled with honesty and attraction, feelings of like versus love, and emotional yet unemotional happiness and unhappiness dispersed, culminating with a surprising denouement.
Greer introduced Hunter, who performed Ten Year Affair in a comedic manner, and the audience applauded for the entire reading. Somers truly understands the relationship complexities between men and women, husbands and wives, and lovers, and Hunter delivered the narrative with mastery and levity. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and several other publications.
The Best American Short Stories 2022 was hosted by Andrew Sean Greer; performed by Krystina Alabado, Hugh Dancy, and Holly Hunter. The running time was approximately 100 minutes.
Symphony Space at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
2537 Broadway at 95th Street, NYC.
Tickets are available for all performances at Shows & Events | Theater, Film, Dance | Symphony Space.