Romance in seven acts
Stories are like streetcars in this program of short one-acts. A new one pulls up every 10 or 11 minutes, just as the one before fades out of view. This sort of mixed-medley buffet program is generally fun for both actors and audiences. The trick is finding a concept that will get people in through the door. Just as book buyers generally pick novels over anthologies, theater audiences favor full-length plays.
But director Evan Nossoff has a spiffy marketing hook: seven short plays by seven authors—drawn from winners at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s annual festival—featuring seven actors (four female and three male) and seven directors (four male and three female). Fact checkers will note that there actually are eight playwrights, because one playlet features a double byline.
The connecting theme, of course, is love—as in love imagined and ultimately fulfilled. Or good love gone bad. Love simmering and sexual, or love presented in absurd, fantastical terms. You get the concept.
From my viewpoint, the best in the set are Lift and Bang and Acorn.
Lift and Bang is directed by Adrienne Sher and features Laura Sheridan and Ross Blackstone. This is the sexiest (and least abstract) piece in the set. It involves characters who’ve clearly had a torrid affair in the past and who meet again on a suitably sultry day. She’s baking bread when he drops by. He’s married (to another, who’s pregnant), and he’s clearly in the mood for something physical. The sense of temptation and desire is well-realized. Blackstone displays great upper-torso physique in addition to good acting chops, and Sheridan clearly etches both sides of her character’s divided feelings.
Acorn, directed by Stephen Vargo, features Alex Oliver and Dustin Brown. This loopy episode involves underwear (men’s and women’s) on a clothesline, and a lonely guy who imagines that the silent, attractive girl next door is sending him hints as she hangs her panties (or boxers) out to dry. It’s quite far-fetched, but the crazy chemistry between Oliver and Brown makes it both believable and fun to watch.
Some of the other playlets are interesting but not as fully realized. One or two feel a little like exercises—good exercises but not entirely convincing ones. The seven community actors, who’ve been studying with Nossoff for anywhere from several months to several years, do better in some parts than others, which is only natural. Chances are you’ll find at least four that you enjoy.