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A wacky half-day in the life of Maggie

The title of Beth Geyer's new play "24 With Maggie," refers to the amount of time it supposedly covers. But the play opens at 8 in the morning, and ends at 8 at night. That's only 12 hours.

Geyer is emphasizing the craziness of title character Maggie Bauer's day, her rush to get everywhere, the balance she seeks between her own needs and all the other demands on her.

Theatre Plus has debuted several of Geyer's plays. Director Thomas Dooney makes an effort to incorporate the writer's imaginative style with his energetic ensemble. The result doesn't always mesh. Geyer wants to elevate our understanding of ourselves and each other, and do it all with a belly-laugh. It's a lot to bite off, and it's sometimes hard to swallow.

These six short plays follow Maggie (Stephanie Bax) in chronological order. Each scene is about 15 to 20 minutes. Maggie's existential question boils down to: "Am I crazy or is it everyone else?"

Dooney directs a cast of five who, with the exception of Bax as the hapless Maggie, rotate in various roles. While Bethany Sparacio, with her intense voice, plays only female characters, Michael Starzynski, Christopher S. Parada and Kelly Beuth all bend it, playing regardless of gender.

"Conversion," the first scene, finds Peter (Starzynski) fixing Maggie's stove. This involves nuts, screwing and grunting; heavy-handed innuendo that gets Maggie started on her odyssey. She accepts the behavior, but calls afterward to complain. The automatonlike operator (Sparacio) compounds the surreal start to her day. ("Are they your knobs, ma'am?")

The next scene is her writing group. Starzynski is in his element when he's in drag. His soft voice and face are delightful. The dilemmas in this scene are, one, that Maggie doesn't write anything, and two, her cohorts are subliminally co-opting storylines from other, better-known writers, like Paul McCartney and Elton John's lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

The next scene ("10:45 a.m."), shows Maggie at her unfulfilling job. Co-worker Jennifer (Sparacio) enthusiastically urges her into a series of whacky, time-killing games, like Steal Your Co-worker's Lunch, Go Fish (with fired employees I.D. cards) and Fear Factor. By the end of the scene, Sparacio is breathless.

"3:10 p.m. Therapy." Maggie ends up counseling her shrink (Parada) and his sullen son Richard. As a corduroy-clad young man, Beuth pulls off this crossover well.

In the scene titled "God's Ex-Wives," Maggie visits her Aunt Alice (Parada), a former nun. Maggie's ulterior motive is to help out a friend whose mother is threatening to take the vows herself. Revelations about honesty, acceptance and perspective come through. Starzynski stands out again here as Linda, the mother.

In the final scene, "8 p.m.," Maggie heads to her book group, where they don't actually read books! It's another truly nutty scene, where Maggie, simply wanting to relax among friends, and have a cocktail, is bombarded with pill-poppers, pot-smokers and the repeatedly yelled, alliterative yet unprintable word for the female anatomy.

Geyer, with Bax as her alter ego, worries about her sanity and that of others: If you want to truly be at ease, just accept that we're all a little crazy, and go with it.

24 With Maggie

Review: 2 stars (Out of 4)

Comedy presented through Saturday by Theatre Plus in the Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main St. For information, call 852-2600 or visit www.alleyway.com.

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