A fast-paced, pleasantly light sampling of new one-acts, True Stories (Program A) was a well-directed, engaging bill of fare.
The first item on the theatrical menu, Pete Ernst's Strawberries, was an under-15-minute glimpse at a couple's relationship. It is set on a freezing-cold beach in Florida that eventually warms up, along with the couple's relationship (accomplished primarily by the subtle lighting design of Ray Cullom). Director Jeff Seabaugh opened the scene with Bob (Christopher Matthews) in swimming trunks, stretched out on his beach chair, soaking up the (apparently non-existent) sun and Allyson (Judy Bard) huddled up in a ski parka, scarf, and hat, trying to keep warm. This simple image was a wonderful metaphor for the relationship, but it was not thoroughly developed in the somewhat slight play.
Jason Grote's Maybe it Starts with a Kiss (also directed by the playwright) was a more ambitious work. Rejecting the simple "relationship play with naturalistic dialogue" form of Strawberries, ...Kiss takes the audience into the mind of science fiction writer Greg (Michael Gnat), who is precariously perched on the side of a building, reliving his life through two other actors (Jeanine T. Abraham and Michael Finn) while trying to make his way all the way around the building and back into his window. If he fails, well, he falls. With a sense of wry humor and very little sentimentality, he restages various moments while contemplating his theory of parallel universes (in which every branch that could be taken is taken in one of the universes, and what could have been actually is, somewhere). This theory is whimsically demonstrated through placards held up by his alter-ego actors, depicting an episode in the comic book Flash, and featured in Greg's own novel Alrich the Multiple Barbarian. The parallel universe theory combines well with the Brechtian theatricality of the play, and the result was dazzling.
Back to the theatrical menu. If Strawberries could perhaps be a light appetizer, Maybe it Starts with a Kiss was a gloriously filling main course. Which, to complete this awful metaphor, would make Kerri Kochanski's Cup is Cup into a sort of palate cleanser, serving as a break before moving on to the dessert course: Suzanne Marshall's delicious Prom Girls. This palate-cleansing Cup is Cup is a mock-philosophical monologue on what is it that makes a cup a cup. It was saved from utter silliness by Donald Pace's poker-faced delivery, and a certain regal solemnity in his voice.
Now on to the dessert. Prom Girls featured four good actresses (Eleni Beja, Marcia Finn, Karen Greatti and Jeanne Hime) all dressed up, but deciding not to go. Lots of good girl talk, a girl-fight or two, and then revenge on the boyfriend who didn't do the right thing when it came to safe sex. Go girls! A great ending to the evening, with natural dialogue, hefty emotions, and a satisfying sense of justice.
This may have been the dessert course, but that doesn't mean it's pure fluff - no meringues here (except maybe in the dresses). Perhaps instead a really good rhubarb pie -- a certain tangy bite built into a very sweet crust.
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Copyright 1997 Sarah Stevenson