Off balance and on point
Off Balance 6: Freaks, Geeks and Bad Choices
This new production by a rather irregular company includes professional actors and music by folk-blues guitarist Brother Dan Palmer, and yes, it is chock-full of bad choices. Fortunately, it’s also filled to the brim with good performances and a very urbane sense of humor.
The Offstage Actors Group is helmed by artistic director Mark Dias (you may have seen him recently as Creepy Homeless Guy in an episode of TNT’s Leverage). The company includes a mix of local professional and community theater actors, including Greg Koski, Bob Ryder, Lynn Baker, Jose Guillermo, John Young, Krystle Jong and Lindsey Ahern.
And Off Balance 6 looks at all the ways we might be freaks, or geeks—and certainly making bad choices. The show is a mix of ultrashort one-acts, all themed around our own insecurities and incessant worries about what other people think of us. These stage plays are complemented by a couple of short films on the same themes, both very well-done (though Russian Roulette, written and directed by Jemuel Morris, is actually about that subject, and may be disturbing to some sensitive people. This less-than-sensitive critic laughed herself silly).
The show opens with The Sure Thing by David Ives, a typical boy-meets-girl story that offers up an entire multiverse of possible outcomes—and that is reprised, with one big twist and some subtle changes, to open the second act. In the first run-through, Baker and Dias are mind-boggling in their ability to hit complicated lines with slight changes multiple times; in the second, Dias teams up with Guillermo and it gets even funnier. Bottom line: There is no sure thing, as life can take a turn in a hundred ways every minute.
The real gems are saved for late in the show. The Little Voices is a charming look at what goes on, both internally and externally, for a pair of sweet but shy potential lovers. Those of us with evil inner critics will delight in what they look like once personified.
Jimmy Juarez’s Brazilian Facial and Taqueria Stand is a diversion into the metaphysical, exploring what it is that we really want when we say we want to be pampered—and what it takes to get all the pampering we want is, well, kinda dark. And the show wraps up with Dwarf Love, a disturbing retelling of the Snow White fable (think Anne Sexton’s Transformations, but even weirder), written by Dias and Tim Sanders. As the dwarfs, Dias and Young embody tragicomedy; Ahern’s Snow White has a personality that is at odds with her appearance in the most unsettling way.
Production is streamlined, which is a good thing, considering how much work is packed into this slightly less than two-hour show. Palmer’s musical accompaniment is top-notch, and he gets to stretch out in one second-act interlude. The venue, though not really set up for theater, is comfortable but small; make reservations early, because this delightful program—a great way to start an evening on the town—is likely to sell out once word gets around.