Intending to enhance the flavor of local theater, SALT (Stage Actors Live Theater) is presenting its second production at Artists' Exchange in Cranston through January 29. The evening of nearly a dozen one-act plays runs the gamut from ruminating monologues to fiery tête-à-têtes.
To attract extra attention, the show is billed as 3 One Acts by David Lindsay-Abaire, but also features eight new works by Kevin Broccoli. The subordinate billing is out of modesty, though, since Broccoli is a well-regarded local playwright with a healthy following.
Both writers have done better than in this collection of playlets, some of which come across like scripts tucked away for later rewriting and filling out.
Lindsay-Abaire won the 2007 drama Pulitzer for his play Rabbit Hole, which is about a family dealing with a personal tragedy. His sense of humor has been on display to local audiences in his book and lyrics for the recent touring production of Shrek the Musical as well as the bittersweet travails of an amnesiac in Fuddy Meers. The playwright has a knack for prompting wistful smiles from absurd conflicts.
First the headliners.
The trio of Lindsay-Abaire pieces first came to footlights as his 2003-'05 contributions to The 24 Hour Plays challenge on Broadway, in which playwrights, directors, and actors had only that amount of time to write, rehearse, and stage their one-acts.
The most successful piece might be That Other Person, directed by Dan Fisher. Two married couples, played by Amy Thompson, Ross Gavlin, Christin Goff, and Tom Chace, have met to discuss some hanky-panky but were interrupted by a female peeping Tom (Christina Wolfskehl) who fell into the backyard pool.
Wolfskehl does some fancy acting footwork defending the intrusion before her character reveals a secret of her own.
Baby Food has its own twisted charm, including an offstage death via ambitious erotic excess. But the two couples involved are so mean-spirited that their mutual hypocrisy earns as many winces as laughs. Directed by Tom Chace, Fisher, Ashley Arnold, Wolfskehl, and Gavlin are two couples ostensibly concerned about the welfare of a baby, but the latest New Age trend in spiritual communion turns them into glowering enemies.
In Crazy Eights, directed by Goff, the playwright's conflicts are a bit forced. Fisher is a mild-mannered parole officer who has a crush on one of his charges, played by Becky Burns, and he climbs in her fire escape window to bake a tomato-basil torte and wait for her. Call me insensitive, but I didn't believe in the chemistry. Chace is the gay friend who shows up after midnight to play cards with her, and Gavlin is also supposed to prompt some jealousy. Nah.
Eight little plays by Kevin Broccoli intersperse the above, about half of them monologues, a few of them as brief as confession booth admissions.
Two are static recited poems. I Love You When the Ocean Was Sand pretty much sums itself up in the title as Chace does a good job minimizing the sentimentality through restrained sincerity. The Other Side of Pain is well-placed at the end of the evening, when the cast assembles to recite a litany of assuaging gifts life can bring to soften blows. Pathos is alleviated by lighthearted leavening ("There are dump trucks — the toy kind and the real kind").