Don't Miss Our New Age of Information

The setup:

Satiric comedy abounds in seven plays about Our New Age of Information, for which seven Houston playwrights created short works to this pre-selected theme, in a competition inspired and presented by Scriptwriters/Houston, the 4th annual event, with the theme changing each year.

The execution:

Beside the expected humor, there is heart and a keen sense of shared humanity as well. The level of writing is high, the acting good if occasionally uneven, and the staging simple but effective.

I especially liked Wisdom by Fernando Dovalina, as a teenage boy (Xavier Lehew) confides a secret to his grandfather (Walter Boyd), who responds with one of his own; what emerges is a bonding in unpredictable ways. The writing is fresh, honest and moving without being sentimental, and 14-year old Lehew more than holds his own with the older actor, creating a memorable portrait of a youth facing a problem with courage and flexibility.

Youwitness News by Stephen Stewart hits paydirt with the concept that a TV station economizes by having all news consist solely of items videotaped and submitted by viewers - this might well be extended into a full-length play. Jules Loth here nailed the role of a loud-mouthed sports announcer who savors locker-room interviews, and David Parker brought dignity and credibility to the role of an old-time anchor with a tendency to ad lib.

In A Conversation by Anna Louise Bruner, Renata Smith and Brian Heaton portrayed with style and deft comic timing a married couple on a date, as communication devices interrupt.

Love Bug by Lauren Tunnell is amusing as an office staff deals with a potential computer virus, and Sherod Choyce has wonderfully enthusiastic moments as the lovesick office boy. He also played the patient to Marissa Viso's psychiatrist in Twisted by Marilyn Lewis, though the situation tested my credulity.

Walter Boyd, the actor cited above, wrote An Extraordinary Exorcism, and I felt the potential power of the writing, witty and with some serious implications, but the execution was handicapped by the priest not having his lines down. Dolly Fischer was effective here as a mother with a taste for the sauce, and young Lehew again excellent in a role that was primarily pantomime.

The evening closes with Smart Phone App by Dennis Porsnuk, as a father becomes engrossed beyond all reason in phone apps. The situation is amusing, and James Barron as the dad bubbled with enthusiasm, but I never quite believed in the compulsion.

The verdict:

All seven directors coped well with a small stage, and the direction, especially of Kathy Drum, Ron Jones, Steve Carpentier and Jo Marks, showed flashes of inspiration. Since an evening this entertaining arrives so seldom from this source, don't miss it.

The shorts run through May 7 at Museum of Print History, 1324 Clay. For information, call 713-876-9549.

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Jim Tommaney