Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres 2 – Stage Bite

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Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres 2, Photo Credit: The Interrobang Theatre Company

A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE

I like short plays.  They get to the point fast, make it, kill the lights.  Short plays are exciting and urgent and an excellent idea for a small theater company like Interrobang.  Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres 2 is the stage’s second (duh) go-round at this concept, and I thought it was good the first time and I think it’s even better now.  The plays are tighter, the concept cleaner, direction more on point, performances to the max.  In fact, I can’t actually say when I’ve spent a more delightful eighty minutes, except when I ate this really good piece of chocolate cake last week, but that was really good cake, so.

The whole thing is just so damned thoughtful.  Even the curtain speech, which I usually loathe because it makes a show just look so fucking amateur, is cheeky, as the actors read from an old etiquette book.  Cute, you know?  And the scripts aren’t just cheesecake, either, they’ve got real bite.  The theme is intimacy, according to artistic director Katie Hileman, but it could just as easily be isolation (the two go hand and hand, though, don’t they).  It’s the human condition, after all, being so lonely you can’t help but want to spill your guts to someone, anyone who’s listening, right?  CB radios, chat rooms, is this thing fucking on?

The most thematically literal of the three variations is Alice Stanley’s Empty with it’s two helpless, stuck, astronauts (puts me in mind of Joshua Conkel’s The Dum Dums, which workshopped at Glass Mind last season).  Stanley is moonlighting from their regular gig at Cohesion.  I’m always a fan of straightforward dialogue and clear storytelling, and Stanley is good at both.  I also like the way they find humor in the dark shit and this is some pretty dark shit, if you think about it.  At the end of the day, we’re all gonna die, the only thing that makes it worth it is each other, right?  I also very much enjoyed Jen Diamond’s Pretty Like Normal.   There’s something to the idea that “adult” is just bunch of cellophane layers mummifying our true, teen, selves, who look on, confused, and kind of disapproving.  Rounding out the evening is Justin Lawson Isett’s Letters.  The catfish story didn’t grab me as hard as the other two, but Isett is witty, and he has the trick of turning a phrase from goofy to poignant real fast.  The piece also has some nicely blended choral moments, directed with good eye by Deirdre McAllister.

Performances are sure-footed across the board.  Erin Hanratty is adorable in Normal, feeling the horrified, soft, little-girl-but-not-exactly-anymore hard.  She’s also got excellent timing in Empty, delivering the night’s funniest line.  David Brasington is a sad collection of repressed, lonely tics in Letters (and oh my God, can we just hear it for Pizza Crust?).   The handsome Tim German has a truly great smile and also gets some macho-man intensity on in Letters, which contrasts nicely with Empty’s heart-of-gold scientist.  Jessie Poole is everyone’s favorite sort of fast best friend in Normal and brings some nicely nuanced emotion into Letters, which could have easily turned one-note.

In addition to the plays, Hors D’Oeuvres has a “Storyteller” moment built in.  The tellers change every night.  On Wednesday it was Matt, who managed to consume a nice part of a bottle of wine (I hope it really was wine, he deserved it) while pretty much flaying my soul open with his honesty.  This is such a great part of the show.  I still think he should have taken his bow with the others, he was as much a part of my experience as anything else.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Heavy Hors D’Oeuvres 2 is a good idea executed well.  Interrobang continues to nurture the new work of local playwrights, which is definitely something I can get behind, especially when they’re actually good.  This is actually good.  See it.

SECOND OPINION?

Running at The Mercury Theater until May 8th.

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