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A thought-provoking evening at the Subversive Theatre

According to Subversive Theatre Collective's Artistic Director Kurt Schneiderman, his company's political one-act festival may be the only one of its kind in the country.

On "Subversive Shorts" opening night, Schneiderman said that the event has become so popular, and is in such dire demand, that playwrights nationwide are submitting works. Lara Haberberger curated this presentation. The company has divided the 10 selected works into two evenings. I saw one, the "Artaud" program.

The plays, while not necessarily all "political," are thought provoking.

"The Eagle and the Dragon," by Matt Hanf, and directed by Kelly Beuth, features young actors from Buffalo's Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. It's a charming satire on the negotiating process, framing the proceedings in a school lunchroom, and using the ongoing battles between the genders as the platform.

With confident acting by Randi Langdon and Daniel Henderson as diplomats at the table, the piece first finds the young people coming to agreement on how to best manage teachers. They move on to "trade," the issue being: will the girls stand closer to the boys at the next dance, and perhaps even converse, if a boy dares to cross the chasm of the gym? A final twist highlights how manipulative the process can be.

"God's Teeth," by Michael O'Donohoe, is a monologue, performed by Heather Fangsrud and directed by curator Haberberger. A woman relates her sister's journey to become a nun, touching upon the church's handling of its sexual misconduct woes. Fangsrud tells the tale well, and the writing comes full circle to focus, nicely, on the love and acceptance between siblings.

The evening's centerpiece, "In the Beginning," penned by Joan Broadman, is a retelling of the writing of the Bible. It's presented from the point of view of two female honeybees. It's absolutely bonkers -- a lot of fun, though a long way to go for a punch line.

In the piece, an agile Sarah Brown, with Megan Callahan directing, is the lead bee. Her black plastic stinger quivers as she frames the story of Genesis with major bee-centricity. Diane Gaidry, who has moved on from Buffalo to TV and film work, was in town, and in fine form as the less expressive bee, trying to rein in her overexuberant co-writer and pollen-gatherer.

"How You Play the Game," by Diane Sampson, and directed by Bob Van Valin, fell a little flat. Set in South Africa, it offers a triangle of a white activist do-gooder (Michael Renna), a South African black man (Hasheen DeBerry) and a white banker, also South African (Scot Kaitanowski). The situation was an inherently tense and unpleasant one, and that was made clear. But the conflict never really escalated. This is a fun and endearing evening. On opening night, Schneiderman offered a deal if you wanted to come back and see the other program. Thursday performances are "pay what you can," and, one day during the run, you can see the lineups back to back. I'd say it would be worth it. Just bring a sandwich for intermission.

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>Theater Review

"Subversive Shorts"

Review: Three stars (out of four)

Presented by Subversive Theatre through July 11 in the Manny Fried Playhouse, Great Arrow Building. For information, www.subversivetheatre.org.

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