Theater review: Five playwrights walk into a bar | Arts

Theater review: Five playwrights walk into a bar

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Cary Playwrights' Forum: Bar Plays
★★★
Mac’s Tavern, Cary
Thursday, Sept. 10


Five playwrights walk into a bar. By the time the waitress gets to their table, they’re seated and everything’s set up: five manuscripts, an assortment of pens and pencils and a deck of playing cards in the middle. When the waitress asks what the cards are for, they say, “We’re playing script poker.”

Thankfully, a number of the jokes were better than that when five real playwrights—and a group of their friends—walked into Mac’s Tavern Thursday night. Just over an hour later, a standing-room crowd warmly applauded Bar Plays, an evening of five brief, locally sourced one-act comedies.

Though joints such as Linda’s Bar and Grill, Skylight Exchange and the late, great Ringside have hosted full-length shows in years past, I was wondering when someone was going to place the popular 10-minute play format in an equally popular watering hole. Now that Cary Playwrights’ Forum has done it, we know the combo works.

True, the stakes (and production values) were fairly low this night out; to be fair, most of these sketches wouldn’t make the cut at the annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle festival at The ArtsCenter. On the other hand, some nights you want Ibsen; other nights, a couple of beers and some old sitcoms will do. By the final bows, we truly couldn’t say we hadn’t been entertained.

The strongest works included Christian O’Neal’s witty opener, Wish Upon a Bar, in which an amusingly stressed Shannon Healy tracked Michael Bacigalupo’s errant fairy-godfather-for-hire down to some dive, upbraiding him for falling down on the job.

Libby Heily’s Inference and Deduction found more melancholic humors as a trio of barflies (Christine Rogers, Jason Weeks and Chris Brown) discover they’ve all been unflatteringly represented in a painting of their drinking establishment. In the evening's closer, Rollin Jewett’s Blind Date, Justin Peoples amused as the right guy struggling to hang on in the wrong date.

Troubadour Richard Dunnagan’s droll, original guitar work and songs ably set up each of the scenes and gave the night a fitting epilogue. Five playwrights should walk into a bar more often.

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