Making Short Work

When a theater group doesn't have its own performance space, a little improvisation is in order. The folks in Tonight's the Night, a short play by Fernando Dovalina, are rehearsing the show right at the playwright's house.

"In some cases, directors don't want writers around," says Dovalina, "but Beverly Hutchison [his play's director] has been kind enough to allow me to have some say. After a while, though, I tell them, go rehearse, I'm going upstairs."

Scriptwriters/Houston, a non-profit writing and visual arts group, will present Dovalina's play, along with nine other ten-minute works, at its annual "Ten by Ten" showcase of works by local playwrights. This year, the show is at Stages Repertory Theatre.

Tonight's the Night, which takes place in Houston, tells the story of Dolph and Duvina, a couple who have fought in the past but finally agree on one thing: joint suicide. "It's a dark comedy," says Dovalina, "and the director and actors are bringing that out. They understood it."

Dovalina's play straddles the genres that dominate the show's lineup: family dramas and farcical comedies. On the drama side, there's Marilyn Lewis's Roots and Wings, about a woman's attempt to dissuade her daughter from shipping off to Iraq; Meghan C. Hakes' Delaila, about a woman who finds her husband in bed with another lady; and Dee Cliburn's Blood, about a father-daughter reunion after a 14-year estrangement.

On the lighter side, in Jim Bain's Life Isn't Very Easy, which takes place in the '50s, an unemployed circus clown tries to have a private conversation with his girlfriend without realizing they're on a party line. And in Carl Williams' The Man Who Shot Santa Claus, a gunman goes on trial for the murder of Old Saint Nick. The defense? He thought Santa was an intruder.

Think that's silly? Not to worry. "The great part about this production," says Dovalina, "is that if you don't like one of the plays, all you have to do is wait ten minutes and another one will come along."

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Cathy Matusow
Contact: Cathy Matusow