The Echo One Acts: 2004, Evening A

This first part of a two-night series of world premiere one-acts disappoints in both material and execution. The bitterness of expectations undercut is even more acute when one considers that David Lindsay-Abaire, author of such offbeat and fun fare as Fuddy Meers, is represented by a merely competent piece, Crazy Eights, albeit finely directed by Chris Fields. A New Yorker (Lidia Ramirez) has an unwelcome visitation at her apartment after midnight by her parole officer Benny (Spencer Garrett), who wants to induce romance by checking up on her. A friend who drops by (Branden Morgan) complicates matters in a pleasant but predictable play made much more entertaining than it should be by the feisty and energetic Ramirez.

The rest of the program suffers a great deal more, beginning with Mantis, a ponderous work by Jacqueline Wright, in which a woman in a blood-soaked sheath (Katherine Gibson) has stabbed a man to death. As he lies on the floor, she hears a voice within her head, torturing and admonishing her. I had a similar voice in mine wanting to do the same to the playwright, as there is neither sense, poetry, nor raw power to this work.

Fixed, by Leah Ryan, wants to be a comedy but does not succeed, as a housewife uses a Hire-a-Husband outfit to get household projects done. The writer ignores the potential for dramatic fireworks time after time, and director Tara Karsian has sloppily staged the work with a pace almost as lugubrious as the blood-soaked entry that precedes it. Finally, in Cusi Cram's Predator two neurotic, self-involved sisters (Tricia O'Kelley and Meredith Roberts) argue over a pet cat that has eaten a mouse.

This series of plays from the Echo Theatre Company is thematically unlinked, save for a resounding general weakness in writing and performance.