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One-act festival is a mix of yuks, ahs and blahs

In previews over the weekend, and officially opening Thursday, the seven plays in Alleyway's 15th one-act festival are varied. Some come off fine. But more often, they demonstrate the difficulties inherent in pulling off this form.

A small ensemble of actors is shuffled within the seven playlets, which range in content from the silly to the melodramatic and in length from three to 25 minutes. Individually and as a group, the actors -- Peter Maier, Kate Olena, Louise Reger, Jeanine Smyth Maier and Michael Starzynski -- work diligently.

"Scripted," by Mark Harvey Levine, shows a couple waking up in the morning to find a mysterious script by their bedside, containing the days' dialogue. The existential possibilities are funny. But in the end, the literal wake-up call doesn't provide the kick-start the material suggests the characters could use.

Dean Taylor's "Compassion" comments on isolation within society, its glorification of youth, life's pain, etc. A "self-appointed general in the army of compassion," in the guise of a street person, assails two unaware souls on a park bench. He accomplishes his mission, to help them awaken to their "treasures within." The message is well taken, if a bit pat.

In "Ho! Ho! Ho!," by Ted Hoover, too much suspension of disbelief is required to make the monologue work. A department store worker/Christmas elf tearfully explains that he is the only survivor of a group of gay men who used to have fun doing this job. The others all died of AIDS. Joyce Stilson's direction offered little assistance in making the scene hit home.

"Hell Hath Three Furies," by Anise Stratford, tells of a cad who is consigned to hell. We are shown how Mac, his wife, his therapist and his girlfriend were caught up in a web of deceit! Cute direction, including silly death-scene overacting, made this one fun to watch.

"Salt of the Earth," by Ted Wenskus, was another silly one, complete with ridiculous Russian accents. It may have been a comment on the comforts of repetition and familiarity, in contrast to the dire consequences that the same qualities offer in "Compassion."

"Acme Temporary Services," by Linda Eisenstein, offered a comment on American corporate life, embodied by the hard-boiled Bridge and her company's motto: "Ac-me if I care!" A lot of stage business with items on her desk couldn't make up for her unidentifiable accent and the conflicting messages the material sent.

The finisher, "You!," by Alex Broun, was an entertaining comment on relationships. In a full circle of desire and rejection, Walter wants to be with Alice, who obsesses over Strang, who shudders to think of it and pursues Dominic, who thinks he wants Deborah, who, of course, focuses on Walter! As they literally chase each other around a table, they suddenly stop and come to at least one agreement: The problem is "you!"

While there is much potential in some of the premises put forth in the material, these one-act plays ultimately leave more questions than answers behind.

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>Theater Review

Buffalo Quickies '06

Review: Two stars (out of four)

Annual one-act play festival, directed by Joyce Stilson, continuing through April 1 in Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley.

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