Mostly, though, what these three plays lack, besides good seasonal timing, is real emotional tugs. We see scenarios and some touching moments, but we’re left with no lasting residue.
The first of the three one-acts, James Cannon’s Cabin, reviews past hurts and resentments as a family gathers for the last time at the family cabin. The grandparents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with their son, his wife and a very sullen teenage grandson. Luggage and emotions are unpacked, with secrets brewing and about to blow over. Though the pacing is off, mostly because of overly long scene changes, and the interactions are often stilted, there are tender and believable moments between the daughter-in-law (Georganne Wallace), her husband (Gerald Ooley) and their teenage son Tom (Galen Howard).
The second offering is the most successful of the three. Monica: Before and After, by playwright Daniel Ho, is mainly a monologue except for a brief interaction with an art-gallery patron. Monica, vulnerably portrayed by Suzi Milligan, examines her life through a nude portrait of herself when she weighed 300 pounds. The painting puts her boyfriend on the art map but causes Monica to begin losing weight. Interesting thoughts are presented here, but the end isn’t quite what the author wants it to be. Though meant to be an examination of self-love, none is ever shown here; Monica was self-loathing at 300 pounds, and she’s self-loathing now—just smaller.
The third, by Thistle Dew’s own Thomas M. Kelly, is an examination of a Catholic family in the 1960s that’s dealing with the war, a mentally wounded vet and a son’s homosexuality. They’re interesting yet broad subject matters, though none is really fleshed out or given any resonance. However, there are effective moments with Bill Voorhees and Shera-Lynn Kelsey as dueling siblings. Mostly, the play can’t decide whom the story is about. First, we’re drawn into the tough times of a gay teen, then we veer off to Vietnam, and eventually we lose track of all characters and motivations.
Random Acts plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, $14-$18. Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre, 1901 P Street, 444-8209. Through January 11.