Thursday, November 19, 2009

Production doesn't fall short

You know that old saw about the predictable mutability of New England climate? Well, first, it’s true, of course. And, second, the same thing could could be said about "Fall Shorts," the collection of short plays currently being staged at the Actors Studio: If you don't like what you see, just wait a couple of minutes and the production team(s) will throw something completely different at you. The six pieces differ in mood, style and temperament — from “The Object,” Ron Pullin’s strangely fascinating take on obsession during what was supposed to be an all-systems-go hookup gone very, very wrong, to Michael Kimball’s hilarious, straight-outta-Podunk “The Brownwater Legend,” in which an on-the-career-make reporter thinks she’s found the next Jesse James, but ends up with a dope, not a desperado (and a corpse nearly steals the show).

And like New England, the program itself, a collaboration of three regional theater companies — Players’ Ring, Blackburn Performing Arts and Actors Studio — is itself in flux and won’t be repeated. Not exactly, anyhow. All performances will have two plays staged at the Blackburn as part of its Fall Shorts Festival: "But for The Grace of God," the Laura Crook play that looks at the joys and frustrations of moms who meet at a park, never "really" knowing each other, but knowing a lot actually, and Elinor Teele’s “The Baby,” a surreal scene in which a group of strange warriors discover a baby on a soon-to-be post-apocalyptic battlefield.

And this whole “in flux” thing means that second-weekers won’t get to see "The Mediator" and "Coming Clean," written by Ray Arsenault, who shares writing credits with Thacher Freund on the former — two edgy, sexually charged comedies that won Fringe Festival faves honors earlier this year and were clearly crowd favorites at the Actors Studio during their Nov. 13-16 run at the Tannery. Oh, well. You snooze, you lose.

For the closing weekend, they’ll be breaking out two new shorts — "Men are From Milwuakee-Women are from Phoenix" by Lynda Robinson and "Outside the Box" by Nancy Brewka-Clark.

But, now come to think of it, the weather comparison is probably a bit off. It’s easy not to like it too hot or too cold or too wet or whatever. It’s difficult not to like this show: “Fall Shorts” is an ambitious project that does not fall short.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "Fall Shorts" will be staged Nov. 20-22 at the Actors Studio. Reservations may be made by calling the Actors Studio at 978.465.1229. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 and $12 for students and seniors.

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