Playwright's festival takes `Short Stops' for laughter

THEATER

Mobtown Players offers collection of comedy sketches

July 25, 2002|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Short Stops, Mobtown Players' entry in this summer's Baltimore Playwrights Festival, isn't really a play; it's a 75-minute collection of 11 comedy sketches.

The author, Michael Cookson, is a playwright and stand-up comic whose credits include a stint as emcee at Winchester's Comedy Club. In Short Stops, his humor sides with the nerds and outcasts of the world, and against those who take advantage of them.

The best example is a running narrative called "Waiting for Stomp," which makes up four of the 11 sketches. Tony Gallahan and Jeff Tremper portray a pair of archetypal high school dweebs, from their ungainly posture to their taped eyeglasses. On this particular day, Gallahan's character looks goofier than usual since he's decked out in a helmet (worn backward) and shin guards.

The extra gear is necessary because he's made an appointment to fight the school bully, an appointment he sees as taking a stand for "nerds everywhere." It won't spoil the outcome of this rather sweet tale to reveal that the second installment finds Gallahan out cold. In the third installment, we finally meet Stomp (Jason Yaffe), and in the fourth and concluding chapter, we discover that looks can be deceiving.

The evening includes one other multi-part skit, "Party Line." Director Dahlia Kaminsky stages this with the actors' heads popping out of cutouts in a black panel. The first segment of this two-parter features Claire Bromwell as a telemarketer from the North Pole and Yaffe as perhaps the only recipient of a telemarketer's spiel who ever begged to buy something.

In the second part, Yaffe's character finds himself on the telephone with a suicidal woman (Leik Hawkins) who's dialed a wrong number. Always helpful, he offers her tips on improving the diatribe she plans to deliver to the man who done her wrong.

There's also an amusing sketch titled "Aftercourse" in which a woman complains about her partner's tendency to hum ad jingles during sex. But a bit called "Twelve Step Airlines" -- featuring an alcoholic pilot and the slogan, "We might not get you there, but you'll feel better" -- simply doesn't fly post-Sept. 11.

Kaminsky has her versatile six-member cast -- the sixth is Adam Schechtman -- bopping around gleefully between skits as they move the sparse, modular scenery (mostly black cubes). Keep an eye on Tremper in particular; he has a jerky way of dancing that makes it look as if he's illuminated by a strobe light.

I'm not sure whether Short Stops belongs in a new-play festival, but the material is so good-natured and so cheerfully and enthusiastically performed, it seems churlish to complain.

Short Stops is performed in the Marian B. Copeland Theatre in LeClerc Hall on the campus of the College of Notre Dame, 4701 N. Charles St. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 4. Tickets are $10. Call 410-467-3057.

Sondheim in NYC

This fall, New York audiences will get a chance to sample what audiences in this area have been savoring all summer during the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebration.

At 8 p.m. on Oct. 21, a concert featuring such Celebration stars as Christine Baranski, John Barrowman, Blair Brown, Michael Cerveris, Barbara Cook, Melissa Errico, Raul Esparza, Judy Kuhn, Rebecca Luker, Mandy Patinkin, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner will be performed at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. The conductors of all six Kennedy Center productions will also participate.

Tickets to the concert are $55-$100. For more information, call 212-875-5030 or go to www.lincolncenter.org.

Boston appointment

Jim Petosa, artistic director of Olney Theatre Center, has been named director of Boston University's School of Theatre Arts. Dividing his time between Massachusetts and Maryland, Petosa is retaining his position at Olney, where he also serves as artistic director of the National Players touring company and co-artistic director of the Potomac Theatre Project, both of which are in residence at Olney.

The busy director's Boston appointment officially began July 1; his production of Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project began performances at Olney eight days later.

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