I fell in love with short plays when I discovered Actors’ Theatre of Santa Cruz and their annual presentation of 8 Tens at Eight. I went every year and wrote about them for the brilliant, now defunct, South Bay Area magazine, Out & About. The thing of it is, the plays are only ten minutes long, give or take; drama, comedy, pathos, all in a short time span. If the play is brilliant, one is sad and wistful when it is over. If the piece doesn’t quite measure up, well, it’s over in ten minutes and on to the next.
Little Fish Theatre’s lineup of short plays, Pick of the Vine, now in its seventeenth season, features a fine cast of veteran players performing in works that are mostly broad comedy, the giddy backbone of the show, but also render moments of touching poignancy.
Frozen Foods, by Ian August, directed by Cinthia Nava-Palmer. In a grocery store, a moony shopper, Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, struck dumb by the inequity of fluctuating food prices, questions the meaning of existence in an hilarious debate with her friend, a grounded, sharp-voiced realist played with over-the-top exuberance by Rachel Levy.
A Twilight-Zone-esque sort of grim fantasy, The Sum of Your Experience, by Trace Crawford, directed by Richard Perloff, gets creepy when a brusque businessman (Don Schlossman) trying to hail a cab gets confronted by a pistol-packing Perry Shields, who demands the tall, powerful individual surrender his stories.
The women in My Scale is Lying to Me (Susie McCarthy, Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, and Kimberly Patterson), by Scott Mullen, directed by Bill Wolski, get way more than they bargained for when a defective bathroom scale being return to a department store reveals some intriguing truths other than an individual’s weight.
The C Word, by Niki Hatzidis, directed by James Rice, features a low-keyed Rachel Levy as a woman contemplating her mortality in the random company of a man, (Ryan Knight), who is hard pressed to respond.
The touching, The Last Bride of Ansbruk Village, by Aleks Merilo, directed by Cinthia Nava-Palmer, features a poignant wedding between a captured soldier (Daniel Tenant) and his betrothed (Holly Baker-Kreiswirth), with Susie McCarthy, Ryan Knight, Kimberly Patterson, Don Schlossman, and Perry Shields.
It won’t do to reveal much about Pick of Levine, by Mark Harvey Levine, directed by Bill Wolski. Suffice it say that it consist of five utterly delightful bits of whimsy from Little Fish’s favorite short play writer. Is that not enough? Okay…love those fish!
In Canvas, by Andrew Heinrich, directed by Richard Perloff, a fierce Gold Star mother (Susie McCarthy) confronts a homeless guy (Ryan Knight) wearing a service jacket.
Beatrix Potter Must Die! by Patrick Gabridge, directed by James Rice, is another “Zoner.” A farmer (Don Schlossman), tries to solve his problem with rapacious hordes of rabbits ruining his crops, by launching himself back in time with a ray gun to murder Beatrix Potter (the adorable Holly Baker-Kreiswirth) who, he thinks, created the universal love of bunnies that makes beloved heroes out the likes of her Peter Rabbit and companions, while denigrating farmers just out to make a living.
The versatile Rachel Levy uncorks a stellar turn as a drunken New Year’s Eve reveler putting a volunteer driver (Daniel Tennant) through a severe, hilarious test of patience in Old Aquatics, by Steven Korbar, directed by Bill Wolski.
Pick of the Vine: Season 17 is fun stuff and it is almost over. Get over to San Pedro before the show closes on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3. No one cares about the LA Rams! Right? This week, the curtain goes up on Thursday and Friday at 8:00pm, on Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, and on Sunday at 2pm. You can be home by second half. Maybe.