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Power Plays

This series of seven short plays (none is longer than 12 minutes) takes on the theme of power. While the lion's share of the new writers' work shows promise, several are one-line jokes that, once told, should end -- but don't. For the most part, however, the offerings are a mildly humorous collection of unrelated blackouts that stretch for connectedness to the central theme.

With:
Cast: Neal Matarazzo, Julie Pop, Dyanne DiRosario, Mark Primiano, Michael Tomlinson, Nina Giovannitti, Dolores Scozzesi, Doug Burch, Stefan Marks, Raub McKim, Kieran Angelini, Greer Coursey, Christopher Fraenza, Darlene Kardon, Jeanne Sylvester, James DuMont, Barry Kramer.

This series of seven short plays (none is longer than 12 minutes) takes on the theme of power. While the lion’s share of the new writers’ work shows promise, several are one-line jokes that, once told, should end — but don’t. For the most part, however, the offerings are a mildly humorous collection of unrelated blackouts that stretch for connectedness to the central theme.

The evening starts off strong with “Speak,” written and directed by Dana Coen, in which a couple (Neal Matarazzo and Julie Pop) rescue a dog (a pathetically adorable Dyanne DiRosario) from the pound.

“8:30” refers to the starting time of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where a newcomer (Michael Tomlinson) receives the unwelcome support of a three-month “old-timer” (Mark Primiano). In spite of the competent cast, director/playwright John Bunzel’s piece plays like an infomercial for AA.

Set in a funeral parlor, Robert Harders’ “The Last Laugh” proves the funniest and, structurally, the most sophisticated snippet of the bill. Two friends (Nina Giovannitti and Dolores Scozzesi) come to view the body of their former friend who stole Scozzesi’s boyfriend. Like a shark at a feeding frenzy, Scozzesi is hilarious as she strips the corpse of all the possessions that “should have been hers.” The piece, directed by J.D. Lewis, sports a well-conceived twist at its end, and shows Harders as a playwright to keep an eye on.

Following the idea that everyone is the enemy, Wes Walker writes and adroitly directs the stylized and enigmatic “Trips to Win.” Walker successfully evolves three men (Raub McKim, Stefan Marks and Doug Burch) from corporate climbing execs to gang-bangers fighting among themselves.

Bob Brown directs Kieran Angelini’s one-note “Killing Time,” in which two thugs (Greer Coursey and Angelini) lie in wait to murder their archenemy (Christopher Fraenza). The piece is trite and the twist at the end is more of a gentle turn.

Paul Casey’s “Anna & Elena” is an endearing work that is marred by the inability of one of the actresses to remember her lines. Jeanne Sylvester and Darlene Kardon play a lovable pair of elderly ladies who are trying to bolster each other’s — and their own — love lives.

Finally, James Morrison writes a play for our times, a sort of “Falling Down” on yuppie self-centeredness in which an up-and-coming professional (James DuMont) parks his car, trapping an irate, fed-up everyday guy (Barry Kramer).

Riad Galayini’s inviting direction of the argument that ensues vicariously allows the audience to say all those things that cross their minds in similar circumstances. Gary M. Davis’ sound and lights complement the onstage happenings.

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Power Plays

Wooden-O Theatre, West L.A.; 40 seats; $12 top

Production: Wooden-O Theatre Alliance and Los Angeles Playwrights Group present seven short plays by Dana Coen, John Bunzel, Robert Harders, Wes Walker, Kieran Angelini, Paul Casey and James Morrison; directors, Coen, Bunzel, J.D. Lewis, Walker, Bob Brown, Casey and Riad Galayini; producers, Jonathan Luria, Val Bisoglio, Bunzel; co-producer, Mavis Manus; coordinating producer, Eileen Dietz Albany; lights and sound, Gary M. Davis.

Creative: Set design, Otto Sturcke. Opened March 10, 1995; reviewed March 18; runs through April 8.

Cast: Cast: Neal Matarazzo, Julie Pop, Dyanne DiRosario, Mark Primiano, Michael Tomlinson, Nina Giovannitti, Dolores Scozzesi, Doug Burch, Stefan Marks, Raub McKim, Kieran Angelini, Greer Coursey, Christopher Fraenza, Darlene Kardon, Jeanne Sylvester, James DuMont, Barry Kramer.

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