Beyond holiday flings

Not in the Stars

<p><b>Does this relationship look like it’s functional?</b></p>

Does this relationship look like it’s functional?


Not in the Stars, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; $23-$35. B Street Theatre, 2711 B Street; (916) 443-5300; Through January 5.
Rated 4.0

You can always bank on B Street Theatre’s Buck Busfield to buck the oversaturation of seasonal sentimentality with his annual holiday plays. Over the years, Busfield has incorporated elements of the holidays in his original plays, but lately he’s stuck with giving us nonthemed glimpses into family, friends and romance—both functional and dysfunctional. That’s what the holidays really end up being about to many of us: past, present and future relationships.

In Busfield’s 16th original holiday offering, Not in the Stars, he gives us two separate one-acts in which he creatively casts three B Street regulars in repertoire: Elisabeth Nunziato, Kurt Johnson and David Pierini. The first selection is about the awkward dance of a possible romance, while the second is about the slow dissolution of a non-nurtured relationship.

The first act is one Busfield revised from a 1994 production in which he features the same three actors that starred in the original, though he’s reworked and updated the story of two hesitant blind daters: Yvonne (Nunziato) and Clare (Johnson). And with the characters a little older than in the 1994 production, the concept of bitterness and regret rings more true when we witness Yvonne’s brittle responses to Clare’s dry and off-handed attempt at a romantic connection. Pierini makes an appearance as a waiter and a telephone repairman named Mac.

The second act switches it up, placing Pierini’s character Mac center stage as his blustery character blindly ignores the wants and needs of his soft-spoken, timid girlfriend Maria (Nunziato). Mac isn’t a bad guy, just sadly clueless, and his wake-up call comes in such quiet resolve from his long-suffering girlfriend that the audience cheers them both on, though not necessarily as a couple.

By putting two one-acts in repertory, Busfield allows the audience to savor the talented acting skills of this tried-and-true trio, who have acted in productions at B Street for the last two decades. And Not in the Stars also lets the audience appreciate Busfield’s subtle and poignant characters as they try and navigate through life’s big and small moments.