"Why here?" asks the first character we meet, a woman standing in the parking lot of a cemetery. Indeed these six snappy one-acts, written by Cybèle May and directed by Heidi Rose Robbins, take place in parking lots—some of necessity, some tangentially. Parking lots are places where we stop momentarily on a quest. They also, for some including Joni Mitchell, represent paradise paved. May's writing poses disquieting questions, then gives us this concrete opportunity to ponder some answers.
"A Grave Mistake" finds a husband and wife meeting a cemetery representative in the graveyard's parking lot. The representative, played by a nicely discomfited but deliberate A.J. Schuermann, must explain away a horrific error in the disposition of the couple's two deceased young daughters. James Sharpe and Caroline Carrigan well define the couple's coping mechanisms—his to repress, hers to lash out. In "A Family Affair" Scott Jay plays a husband who tracks down his wife as she leaves work to confront her over the reasons she insists on a divorce. Anne Rutter's fully invested, finely energized performance as the wife drives this unsettling scene.
"Four May," based on the Kent State University killings, revives thoughts of the early 1970s while reflecting on personal and nationwide changes—or not—inspired by those events. Christine Avila appears as a woman visiting the on-campus site of her brother's massacre. One unfortunate aspect of the writing: Because it is based in historic fact, we may be left wondering which of the two young men gunned down was her brother. "Tough Love" is a paradoxically whimsical and profound, perhaps deliberately ambiguous work, in which a man courts a woman via a unique offer. Schuermann returns here as the part Jovian, part puppy-eyed suitor—paired with Rutter as the self-confident object of his admiration and with Jay as his cupid-playing son. "Digital Revolution" finds Sharpe and Carrigan married again, this time in a wryly humorous piece about a man who lost his thumb in an accident and who looks for it (where else?) in the parking lot where the dismembering took place.
But the gut-wrenching, heart-stopping one-act here is to be found in "Demise," in which writing, direction, and the stellar performance of Gergana Mellin combine for a transcendent experience. In her direct-address monologue, Mellin takes us from her character's birth as a blue baby, through her narrow escape from imprisonment in a concentration camp, past her life as an Iowa farmwife, and to a precipitous moment in her present. Where Mellin's mind goes to build these moments we'll never know, but that she goes there with her every breath onstage is indisputable.
The cast alternates.
"The Parking Lot Plays," presented by and at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Jan. 4-Feb. 9. $15. (323) 871-9433.