When a production of four short plays is entitled Four Short Plays, it is obvious that the whole enterprise is a very basic affair. However, very basic affairs are usually filled with good spirits; and such is the case with Break-Even Stage Productions' evening of works by Michael Hansen.
The first short play, entitled Raised Awareness, is set in an East-side apartment. It concerns Ralph, an upper-class, somewhat effeminate black man, and Dora, a working class white woman who has spent the night with Ralph's roommate Gus. Over a mean-spirited breakfast, they argue over the importance of love, money, and possible conflicts over their respective sexualities.
The second piece, Determined and Bound, takes places in a bar during a blind date. Girl is an investment banker who claims to like her job. Guy is an earthier sort, who is badly dressed, but quite philosophical. They discuss their previous relationships, and discover that both have been hurt over the years.
The third play, Brad and Mercedes, is set in lowa. It concerns Mercedes, a stripper who is attending college, and Brad, her possessive boyfriend who claims to love her but merely wants to control her. As Mercedes tries to study for an important exam, Brad does everything possible to interrupt her. Finally, he discovers that Mercedes is no longer the pushover she used to be, and has made plans, not just for the distant future, but for her immediate future as well.
The final piece, Baggage Claim #1, is the closest of the four to a straight-out comedy. It deals with two sisters, Kelly and Radiant, who have just returned from a month in Europe. The trip, however, was not a success. Every time Kelly hooked up with a guy, Radiant quickly fell ill. As a result, instead of enjoying herself, Kelly spent a large amount of the trip touring emergency rooms.
The four short plays that make up this brief evening are all well written and interesting. They are all concerned with the issue of control and explore it from numerous angles. The most successful are Raised Awareness, which deals with the subject the least of the four, but has a great hook for an ending, and Brad and Mercedes, which is a powerful and extremely straightforward piece.
The cast of Four Short Plays made a game effort with each of the scripts. Standing out were Cheryl McLeod and Jeff Breithaupt in Brad and Mercedes, and Rolls Andre and Beth Ender in Raised Awareness. The direction for each of the plays was well-done, and directors Sasha Alexandre Torres, Kelly Brower, Shelley McPherson, and Lisa Tracy should be commended for not over-directing any of these small pieces.
On the whole, Break-Even Stage Productions' Four Short Plays was a well done, enjoyable, simple evening of theatre.
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Copyright 1998 John Attanas