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The Patriot Acts

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Seven one-acts divided equally into two evenings' worth of material. How so? Each night's slate begins with Risa Mickenberg's bittersweet environmental piece titled Lift, directed by Scott Campbell. On the night reviewed, Eve Kagan played a New York firefighter recounting the horrors of being trapped on a crowded elevator as the planes struck on 9/11. Ushered into a confined space between sections of the theatre's seating, we, her fellow prisoners, are reassured by Kagan's tone that all is well despite our mutual helplessness. Tinges of guilt about America's way of life creep in but seem attributable to the life-altering predicament we find ourselves in.

After a well-choreographed theatre rearrangement, lights come up on Garry Williams' Teachers, ably directed by Peter Fox. This electrically charged story details a group of instructors at a pre-strike meeting interrupted by updates of a student-involved auto accident. With tensions thick, revelations of adultery, possible divorce, and even allegations of statutory rape spew forth. Leading this effective ensemble is Erin Underwood in a riveting portrayal of strength under pressure as a math teacher confronting her husband's (Mark Sivertsen) infidelity with another staff member (Deirdre West).

Next is Mark Scharf's Wilderness, in which Margaret (Alisha Seaton) visits/confronts her widower neighbor Spencer (Bill Dempsey) about his neglectful attitude toward his lawn. Scharf's script hints at Spencer's internal conflict regarding his wife's death, but Brent Beath's direction barely scratches the surface. Saving the best for last, director Peter Fox tackles Rain, another deeply disturbing scenario by Williams. A farming family, already burdened with a seemingly autistic son (Garrick LeWinter, in a hauntingly focused turn), deals with the emotional horrors wrought by the father's crippling fall from a barn. As parents Mary and Staff Holcombe, actors Annie Wyndham and Lee Ryan are mesmerizing. Ryan, in particular, is acerbically tragic as he fights to make sense of his predicament. Though Lift seems the only work directly connected to the compilation's recognizable title, these scripts--alternating nightly with Boom, Changed Our Minds, and Loyalties--are certainly character-driven glimpses of the human condition both urban and rural.

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