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Theater & Dance
What you need to know for 02/22/2018

Theater review: Six one-act plays satisfy all tastes

Theater review: Six one-act plays satisfy all tastes

Under the direction of Hubbard Hall’s new artistic director, John Hadden, this evening of six one-ac

Under the direction of Hubbard Hall’s new artistic director, John Hadden, this evening of six one-acts has a little something for everyone. And, if you don’t like something, wait a minute. Except for one misstep in programming, there’s enough choice material, backed by solid production values, to keep you engaged.

‘Thrills, Spills, & Lonely Hearts’

WHERE: Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall, 25 East Main St., Cambridge

WHEN: Through Dec. 4

HOW MUCH: $25

MORE INFO: 677-2495

Hadden has cleverly anchored the evening with two Chekhov one-act plays, “The Proposal,” which closes Act I, and “The Wedding,” which ends the show. These little domestic comedies are complemented by four contemporary shorts that explore more on-the-edge moments in life. Tonally, then, a satisfying psychological ride.

Christine Decker, Deb Foster, and Deb Borthwick get the show off to a darkly funny start with Beckett’s “Come and Go.” Old school chums and now adult gossips, they sit, hatted, clutching large vinyl purses, waiting for — well, only Beckett knew. Inspiration? A cutting remark? The end of civilization? Each actress works precisely, gesturing and moving in the silences with purpose and delivering her few lines with bite. Mary-Ann Greanier’s lighting design is, shall we say, spot-on.

Hadden is the author of “The Quincy and Antoinette Kraczlic Variety Show,” basically a monologue by a performer whose wife has bailed and left him alone onstage. It’s the nightmare most of us have at one time or other when, unprepared, we’re called upon to act. Oddly funny in spots, and predictable in others, Hadden deftly shows the man’s panic.

For my money, the most satisfying piece of the sextet is “The Proposal,” partly because of the writing (in a fresh translation), and partly because of the delicious mugging and physical go-for-broke comic performance of Doug Ryan, who plays Ivan, the apoplectic suitor to Katherine Stevenson’s Natalia, under the approving eye of father Stepan, Erik Barnum. Misunderstandings, petty grievances, self-dramatizing — the very stuff of Chekhov’s plays, finely delivered by all three actors. Hadden has them overlapping each other’s speeches at a pell-mell pace, adding to the credibility.

After intermission comes Greanier’s “Conversation Hearts,” which has a bit of Beckett to it, and if the imaginative conceit wears out before the play is over, the episode is certainly redeemed by the excellent work of Christine Decker, strong throughout the evening.

I tried to get into Harold Pinter’s “Night,” but I found it tedious.

Finally, “The Wedding.” It’s a big piece, and while it serves as a kind of denouement to “The Proposal,” it’s a lot to sit through after a long evening of stopping and starting. The large cast revs up the energy (loved Sylvia Bloom’s vocalizing, by the way), and the one-act concludes with a lively dance, choreographed by Erika Schmidt, but I thought that Hadden could have jettisoned the Pinter and saved the audience’s energy for the Chekhov. (Note: The audience was also tested on opening night by a lengthy pause after the first play. Presumably, that was a one-time-only glitch.)

Continuity is provided by the brilliant pianist Gary Schmidt, who offers classical and jazz during the scene changes and sometimes provides atmospheric music within a play.

Hadden has intimated that there might be a couple of Albee one-acts coming in January. “The Night of the Iguana” follows in March, and the season wraps up with “Amadeus” in May. Interesting programming, as always, from Hubbard Hall.

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