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…Into the Fire

The two one-act plays of"... Into the Fire" make for a sweet and spoiled dinner. The bitter comes from "Going Out of Business" by Bart Baker, whose storyline never surprises and whose characters feel like a parody of elder Gen Xers; Scott Davis Jones' "Dark of the Woods" delightfully serves gourmet writing and acting.

With:
Cast: Trey Alexander, Danny Neiman, Kelly Edward Nelson, Casey Payden. "Dark of the Woods" by Scott Davis Jones, directed by Allan Vint. Cast: Donald Agnelli, Wylie Small, Kirk B.R. Woller.

The two one-act plays of”… Into the Fire” make for a sweet and spoiled dinner. The bitter comes from “Going Out of Business” by Bart Baker, whose storyline never surprises and whose characters feel like a parody of elder Gen Xers; Scott Davis Jones’ “Dark of the Woods” delightfully serves gourmet writing and acting.

“Dark,” the second of the one-acts, constantly surprises and engages.

Laura (Wylie Small), a U.S. senator’s wife, may have poisoned President Clinton at dinner, and Secret Service agent Morrison (Kirk B.R. Woller) grills the woman on what she put in the food and why.

Laura receives little support from her husband (Donald Agnelli), even after Morrison suggests she’s a witch.

“I am not now, nor ever have been, a witch,” says Laura, with delicious sarcasm. As Laura, Small is a slow fuse who burns more brightly as the questioning continues.

The agent does not relent, skewering Laura with misogynistic implications under the veneer of civility. Director Allan Vint reinforces the mystery elements, leaving conclusions and assumptions to the audience.

In “Business,” Lannie (Casey Payden) has entered the restaurant business with three of her previous lovers: pot-head Mick (Kelly Edward Nelson), lover boy Bobby (Trey Alexander) and accountant and ex-husband Frank (Danny Neiman).

Despite plenty of customers, Frank explains there are more bills than income, and the restaurant has to fold. The others are furious, wanting to know how their life savings have evaporated. It comes as no bombshell that one of them has been embezzling.

Director Joshua Ravetch elicits little subtlety from his cast, allowing the actors to roam the stage and deliver lines such as “I’ll kill him myself” with melodramatic flair.

The dialogue does not move the story forward as much as provide color. Uninspired banter about Lannie’s sex life goes nowhere, trying to con viewers into seeing “Business” as about sexuality. Rather, the drama, billed as a black comedy, is a long-winded tale of mistrust, greed and thoughts of arson.

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...Into the Fire

Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts, North Hollywood; 63 seats; $ 12 top

Production: The Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts presents two one-act plays by Bart Baker and Scott Davis Jones.

Creative: Lighting, Nancy Mathews. Opened May 31, 1996; reviewed June 8; runs through June 23. Running time, 1 hour 45 min. "Going Out of Business" by Bart Baker, directed by Joshua Ravetch.

Cast: Cast: Trey Alexander, Danny Neiman, Kelly Edward Nelson, Casey Payden. "Dark of the Woods" by Scott Davis Jones, directed by Allan Vint. Cast: Donald Agnelli, Wylie Small, Kirk B.R. Woller.

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