Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bedroom Suite

One of the theatrical signs of summer in Baltimore is the Strand Theater's Friends and Neighbors Festival. This year's edition has something for everyone, especially everyone with a taste for fringe. Running on alternate nights, this collection of six new plays by different authors provides the barest workshop productions: $20 was the maximum budget for each director. But less can be more, as a successful evening of very short one-act plays indicates.

Directed by Da'Minique Williams, two bedroom comedies feature squabbling married couples. In Sean Pomposello's Unlimited Nights, Lucy (Kate Shoemaker) and her husband (Raymond Kelly) confront a series of strange middle-of-the-night phone calls. The spat over the calls leads to a bitter walkout. In Susan Middaugh's Such Good Neighbors, Mavis (Jill Colucci) and her husband (Raymond Kelly) come to a confrontation over Mavis's gossip addiction. She enjoys listening to the fights of their next-door neighbors (especially when she holds a wineglass up to the wall), but when her husband becomes the object of the neighbors' disputes, her curiosity turns into paranoia.

Together, the plays run less than half-an-hour. Yet there is a an odd, pleasing symmetry in the bedroom farce that rapidly escalates into marital war. The direction and acting are crisp and energetic in a bare-bones black-and-white bedroom set---what do you expect for $20?