Bob McPhail 12:30 p.m., April 26
SD Fringe Festival: Stiff Love
Performances at the Fringe run around 60 minutes. The six sketches for Stiff Love have less than 1/6th that time, since they must set the stage with minimal but expressive props, and present a one-act play in less than 10 minutes.
Sound simple? Try it. Begin, middle-move, and end a script in eight-plus minutes.
Many moons ago, Mickey and Sylvia sang "Love is Strange." Well, maybe so, if you take a narrow, Tinseltown view. But as Hamlet said to Horatio, there's more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in Hollywood romances. Or words to that effect.
In a way, love is the central character for all six plays - mercurial, at times invisible, at others gleaming in the eyes of beloveds, or exiting those eyes, as in Olivia Ruiz Marrujo's "Kiss Me."
Husband and wife dine at a fancy restaurant, apparently their favorite. He's rigid. She's what? Changed? For the first time in their 20 years together, she doesn't order the blue cheese. And tequilla instead of red wine? Ta-KILL-ya?? Brad wants his world as ordered as a library that no one uses. It slowly dawns on him that ever since Emily came back from Argentina, well...
Different notions of love clash in Todd Blakesley's "Pussy Love," where human behavior is, in fact, the "other." Buster the cat lives in a world of "idiots." He just can't seem to please his mistress. And when he tries his best, with a red-breasted trophy, he irks her all the more.
The beloved's eyes are shut in Lynn McAlister's "Love's Mortal Remains," and may have been for the last two months, where she has sat in the back of a car, bundled in a sheet, and has begun to smell in ways that singing jazz and the blues cannot remedy.
Michael Eichler set his "The Two Remaining" in Las Vegas in August. Two couples met there every year (because hotel rates were cheaper). Now both wives have passed away, and the husbands find themselves stuck, but may discover ways of moving on.
Two plays about conflicting views of love, and two about endings. Stiff Love also offers two about starting out, in unexpected ways.
"Significant 'Nother" - by Joe Udall and Kelsey Austin - presents a mystery: why are an American male and a woman from France about to be married in Reno? They claim to be in love, but their attraction's a tough read, since they barely seem to know each other (people say opposites attract; but not always). Is she just getting hitched for a green card?
"Third Flight from Houston" is the most polished piece. To be expected since its author, Stephen Metcalfe, is an Associate Artist at the Old Globe and has had numerous plays produced worldwide.
Lena sits in the middle seat, in coach. In an accent that suggests she's from, maybe, India, she says she finally got a flight to Houston, where she will "meet a husband that I am expected to marry with."
She tells this to the red-headed, strawberry-skinned many next to her. And explains that husband-to-be is completing a doctorate in chemical engineering, "which means he probably has an ego and no sense of humor."
She also says that they are, if nothing else, "astrologically harmonious." But the more she talks about the virtues of arranged marriages, and the more the man listens, it's clear that there's just no way.
Tenth Avenue Theatre, Main Stage, 930 Tenth Avenue, downtown, Sunday, July 7 at 5:00 p.m.