Wave III of Black Box’s One-Act Play Festival

Variations and themes
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  August 22, 2012

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METAPHORICAL Warren and Almeida in A Killing Frost.

The third and final "Wave" of the One-Act Play Festival at the Black Box Theatre (through August 26) is another varied batch, from romantic duets to a couple of fantasies. All but one of the half-dozen offerings are directed by Rich Morra, and two-thirds succeed.

As usual, a prime opportunity is comical first-date dramatics — three playlets in the prior two collections toyed with that trope. So starting out is Fighting Mr. Right, by Barbara Lindsay. Marla (Cassia Chipman) has brought her date home, and a good touch is that we don't know whether either or both of them are faking enthusiasm over the Japanese drumming performance they have just seen.

What follows is an imaginative variation on the expected give-and-take about whether things will go farther that night. She won't have him stay and she won't even let him kiss her, but not because they haven't hit it off. Marla likes him, in terms that probably make him wish he had a hat to fan himself with. The rule she sets down for advancing the relationship is funny but sensible in a weird way, and Joel (Ed Warren) adapts in fine style.

Vladimir Zelevinsky's Theme and Variations is directed by Tom Chace. A character named He (Billy Flynn) steps up to a woman at a bus stop bench, with various approaches and responses resulting, as though such alternatives exist in alternate universes. She (Sarah Good) morphs through numerous personalities and reactions, from abrupt rejection to coming on strong to, when they are conversing in some sort of 16th-century archaic diction, she suggests that he "proceed to have sexual relations with yourself." A Nurse (Chipman) comes into things, a consequence of the belief or disbelief in love at first sight.

Two fantasies are, respectively, charming and a bit far-fetched. In Death of a Snowman, by Daniel Guyton, a little girl, Charlotte (Haley Pine), converses with said Snowman (Flynn). She is concerned that he'll be "going away soon." Her mother, you see, has passed away, so she's wondering what he thinks about the afterlife. Charlotte asks him why people die and he retorts, "Why do people live?" It's a sweet little tale about learning acceptance and appreciation.

In A Killing Frost, by Ben Jolivet, Claire (Elizabeth Almeida) is talking with a young homeless man (Warren) in her garden, where she is gathering herbs. She keeps calling him Robert, though he has told her his name is Dan. She has a turkey in the oven, which she has invited him to stay for. Trouble is, she has locked the gate behind him. He had been squatting there, thinking the house empty.

There is a dark undercurrent here that Almeida nicely underplays, but the presentation doesn't shape or use that tension helpfully. Uncommented upon is the fact that she apparently has no close friends. We're also not sure what to make of Dan being somewhat aggressive — he says he's been taking care of himself since he was a kid, and he got fired for telling off his boss. His possibly being dangerous could, but doesn't, play against a potentially scary metaphorical tale she says her mother told her about a killing winter frost. Is she a bit crazy or just lonely? Is his suggesting sex a good thing or worrisome? Hmmm.

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