Commendably, Bare Theatre allows several regional theater artists the playwright's chair in its second annual collection of one-acts. Most significant among them is the company's artistic director, Carmen-maria Mandley, whose scripting has displayed significant artistic growth since last season's edition. She contributes the strongest two out of four acts in an evening titled Oh Sh!t, It's Another Evening of One-Act Plays, which stretches from melancholic drama to slapstick.
In Little Boy Love Goat, Mandley and managing director G. Todd Buker enact an emotionally compelling, contemporary-inflected version of the myth of the Syrinx as the cautionary lovers, while Ann Forsthoefel, Missy Dapper and Heather Strickland serve as the three fates, who look on and comment as they knit.
The Mountain, or Pennatus Pectus, co-created with Buker and Donna Rossi Youngblood, is a clear tour de force, one in which clown and mime work to tell a story similar to Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, in sequences that are by turns amusing and poignant.
In the other performances, Ian Finlay repeatedly flipped the list of suspects in Suspense, his trifle of a satire on an English manor who's-gonna-do-it mystery, before the evening's closer, The Shakespeare Zone, in which a sextet of Raleigh performers generated a broad sketch-comedy revue on a par with the work of the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Actually, "The Shakespeare Network" might have been a more appropriate title for a series of skits in which reality and game shows get the Bard of Avon treatment. Two of them were especially witty—a takeoff on Survivor (based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring Seth Blum as a Rastaman Puck) and a Macbeth-inspired slam on Dr. Phil helmed by Chuck Keith—but the sequences, some of which needed further editing, never really made much of an arc, or built to a satisfying climax.