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Wednesday, June 24,2009

Two out of three ain't bad

Capital TheaterWorks’ season gets solid start with ‘Strange Shorts’

by Tom Helma
“Strange Shorts,” a trio of one-act plays recently performed at the Ledges Playhouse in Grand Ledge, could easily be labeled as weird, quirky or totally nuts. Kudos to Kevin Burnham, founding instigator of what is now called Capital TheaterWorks, for envisioning the bizarre night of summer fun these three shows could be together.

The longest and most difficult of the three pieces was the evening-closing “Earwig,” which pitted laughs against the audience’s inner moralities.

Set in a post office’s dead letter crypt, the Fraser McFarlane play features three denizens of the deep basement, who take pleasure reading suicide notes gone astray and filching contraband cocaine. The play takes a grisly turn when the head of a dead woman is discovered in a box and the characters must resolve what to do about it. Colleen Angharid McGaughy played Tanya, a new-age confection of sheer delight, while new co-worker Julie was played by Emily Himebaugh, whose terror and trembling seemed very real at times, produced as they were by the fearsome Luke Elder, in the role of the darkbrooding Kevin.


The funniest play came in the middle. David Ives’ “Mere Mortals” places three high-rise construction workers — played by Burnham, Kevin Knights and Ben Holzhausen — atop a windy aerie on their lunch break, only to discover that none of them are mere mortals at all, but instead, undercover icons from the past. Knights, who hasn’t been seen much on stage lately, seemed to have lost none of his impeccable comic timing as the central character of this play — the long-lost Lindbergh baby come of age.


The actors’ delivery of Ives’ crisp lines made this play stand out head and shoulders above the other two. Clearly, these three guys had a lot of fun with this, and the audience roared approval with copious laughter.

The evening began with Stephen Dietz “The Spot.” This snack-sized play about the behind-the-scenes machinations of political consultants who will say anything on camera as long as it attracts votes was the least strange and comical of the pieces. Part of the problem is that we all now know this kind of manipulation is commonplace, making it too real to be truly funny.

It didn’t help that the actors didn’t seem ready to perform until halfway through the skit, making for a flat start to an otherwise highly entertaining evening.


“Strange Shorts” ended its run last weekend, but it bodes well for the remaining shows to be performed at the Ledges this summer.

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