“A Dead Man’s Apartment” by Edward Allan Baker is a hilarious, fractured farce about Lonnie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and Nickie (Amy Pietz), both married, who have been carrying on a secret, sexless love affair, mostly on her lunch hour from the hardware store.
When Nickie decides to leave her husband and force the issue, she recruits her daughter Valerie-Marie (Brittany Murphy) and her brother Al (Jay Thomas) to help persuade him. While the tone of the piece skirts the edge of television comedy, the characters have a twisted reality that takes the piece well beyond TV fare.
Cassandra Medley’s “Dearborn Heights” is a real gem. Set in a suburban Detroit cafe in the early 1950s, it quietly dissects the detailed, torturous grief of racism. Grace (Michole White), one of the first “Negroes” to become a telephone operator, meets Clare (Tina Lifford) for lunch after a shopping trip, in hopes of nurturing a budding friendship.
When the dark-skinned Clare joins the light-skinned Grace, heads turn and service stops. The pain of prejudice threatens to split their friendship.
White and Lifford give transcendent performances in this powerful piece, exquisitely directed by Kate Baggott.
“Who Made Robert De Niro King of America?” by Jason Katims is a biting comedy about the tortures of a writer’s life. After a successful first novel, Maggie (Susan Knight) is struggling to complete her second book while trying to get her hardhat husband Red (Christopher Meloni) back to work. Red, however, is determined to finish a blockbuster screenplay about construction called “Sheetrock.”
Enter Maggie’s agent Samantha (Joanna Gleason), who falls in love with Red’s screenplay and in lust with Red. The piece is delightful, with a classic sendup of agents by the talented Gleason.
Direction of each piece — by, respectively, Roxanne Messina Captor, Risa Bramon Garcia, Baggott and Asaad Kelada — is strong. Set and costumes are simple and appropriate for the festival atmosphere. Sound design by Ben Decter sets the high-spirited tempo for the evening.