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Unwrap Your Candy

Doug Wright's "Unwrap Your Candy" is an evening of bite-size plays that bite back. A comic curtain raiser is followed by three macabre morsels of drama drawing on the playwright's peculiar imagination and felicitous gift for language, powerfully revealed in his much-seen play "Quills."

With:
With: Michi Barall, Leslie Lyles, Darren Pettie, Reg Rogers, Henry Stram.

Doug Wright’s “Unwrap Your Candy” is an evening of bite-size plays that bite back. A comic curtain raiser is followed by three macabre morsels of drama drawing on the playwright’s peculiar imagination and felicitous gift for language, powerfully revealed in his much-seen play “Quills.” None makes a particularly strong statement, but collectively they send enough chills to keep fans of “The Twilight Zone” happy. They’re ably performed by a cast of five that includes some solid Off Broadway regulars.

The opening tableau presents two rows of theater seats that look suspiciously like the ones we’re sitting in. The cast assembles individually in the seats, and while they sit idly waiting for the show to begin we are made privy to their wandering thoughts. Most amusing is the case of a doctor played by Reg Rogers, increasingly haunted by the nagging thought that the patient he just operated on was the wrong one (“The guy on the table …. I’ll be damned if he didn’t have a beard…”).

“Lot 13: The Bone Violin” offers a quartet of speakers arrayed at music stands offering testimony about a most unusual string instrument. Leslie Lyles and Darren Pettie are the parents of a child prodigy who has come to an unhappy end.

Lyles and Rogers are paired for the longest and strongest piece, a pas de deux performed by a harried real estate agent and the prospective buyer of a house made famous by a grisly crime committed there. Wright carefully parcels out the grim details, leaving most to the imagination, and if the piece’s denouement can be seen coming, it’s nevertheless transfixingly creepy. Lyles is at her best as the real estate agent descending by small degrees from crisp professionalism to near-hysteria.

The final item earns the biggest laughs of the evening. It concerns an expectant mother (Michi Barall) whose fetus begins communicating through the walls of the womb, first with astonishing feats of knowledge — bits of poetry, advice for the race track — and later with increasingly malevolent volleys of hatred.

Unfortunately, Wright steps across the line into severe tastelessness here, when the child-to-be begins sneeringly listing all the birth defects he claims to have. Some things are too intrinsically sad to be made fodder for black humor.

Unwrap Your Candy

Vineyard Theater; 125 seats; $40 top

Production: A Vineyard Theater presentation of four short plays written and directed by Doug Wright.

Creative: Sets, Michael Brown; costumes, Ilona Somogyi; lighting, Phil Monat; music, David Van Tieghem; sound, Van Tieghem, Jill Du Boff; production stage manager, Christine M. Daly. Opened Oct. 8, 2001. Reviewed Oct. 4. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: With: Michi Barall, Leslie Lyles, Darren Pettie, Reg Rogers, Henry Stram.

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