It’s that time again. Little Fish Theatre’s annual short play festival, Pick of the Vine, is up and running with a potpourri of ten-minute gems that are mostly funny, often thought provoking, and once or twice heart breaking. The intimate space is configured with an ideal design that features an inviting open space with a painted white floor that narrows to upstage and crawls up the wall to an overhanging white screen, upon which the title of each act is projected. When I sat down to wait for the start of the action, the design felt like a tiny movie theatre. This wide open scheme allows for set pieces to be quickly brought on and off.
The short scenes, selected from submissions by veteran playwrights from all over the country and across the sea, boast solid casts of performers that are directed by LFT veterans.
Date with Death, by Steven Hayet; directed by Carly Pandza. A serial murderer (Melissa Booey) drops in on a friend (Olivia Schlueter-Corey) dragging in a victim in a large duffel bag. Hilarity ensues when a cop (Ryan Knight) comes in to arrest her.
Infesting the Mob, by Joe Starzyk; directed by James Rice. A couple of stereotypical crotch-grabbing goombahs (Brad Light and Perry Shields) talk trash in a Jersey joint until they have an arachnid attack that unmans them. Gum chewing Branda Lock saves the day.
Choices, by James McClindon; directed by James Rice. An insurance saleswoman (Susie McCarthy) tries to convince a young woman with a six-figure school loan debt (Olivia Schlueter-Corey) that an outrageous scheme involving the sale of her life insurance is a reasonable solution.
Ophiuchus, by Irene L. Pynn; directed by Samantha Sintef. A couple of lovey-dovey new-age type women (Melissa Booey and Branda Lock) are perfect for each other according to the stars and the horoscope until a waiter (Ryan Knight) upsets the apple cart with new information.
Eleanor Descending a Staircase, by Ian August; directed by Holly Baker-Kreiswirth. A woman (Mary-Margaret Lewis) spies a painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp in an art gallery. Her attempts to buy a print of it lead her to international frustration at the hands of a series of salesmen (the outrageously hilarious Brad Light).
Closing Doors, by John Minigan; directed by Holly Baker-Kreiswirth. Things get serious when a teacher (Branda Lock) is called on the carpet by the assistant principal (Melissa Booey) after a live shooter drill at the elementary school.
Love’s Disenlightenment, by Jeff Dunne; directed by Samantha Sintef. A frustrated playwright (Perry Shields) eschews real actors to write a play that features performances by a stick and a table lamp. In rehearsal, a pair of stage hands (Ryan Knight and Brad Light) manipulate the “characters.” The director (Susie McCarthy) has a hard time until she “sees the light.”
Must Love Pit Bulls, by Jenny Mead; Directed by Carly Pandza. A doleful older woman (Mary-Margaret Lewis) visits a dog park, where a young woman (Olivia Schlueter-Corey) gives her an unusual, bitter-sweet solution to her sadness.
Dating Through the Decades, by Ken Levine; directed by Holly Baker-Kreiswirth. With spot on hilarity, Melissa Booey and Ryan Knight are a stereotypical young couple literally in tune with their times.
Pick of the Vine runs through February 9 at Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre Street in San Pedro.