The trick to attending this may be to get into the spirit of the thing -- the thing being the fun and scrappy nature of the Eclectic Theatre's fourth annual One-Act Writing Competition, in which the company selects nine plays from purportedly hundreds of submissions from all around the globe to present on three consecutive weekends, the audience choosing which plays are winners and which playwrights take home prizes. Cool. What an audience member doesn't want to do -- at least if the festival's opening weekend is any meter -- is to expect to be blown away by the winds of theatrical innovation.
It's not necessary to batten down the hatches for the first three offerings of Hurricane Season 2007. The program opens with The Aftertime, a post-apocalyptic slice of life on the edge in which we find three survivors (Britney Bunker and playwrights Jason Britt and Erik Saari) doing what it takes to get by in "the last refuge from oblivion." Britt also directs, and the dimly lit proceedings fall into an unfocused but familiar sci-fi trudge through bleakness without destination, highlighted briefly by Marc Joseph, who provides the genre's obligatory sanity-in-lunacy respite. Next, Toni Trenton and Lisa Steele share the stage as a particularly nasty mother and daughter in Peggy Dougherty's Tight Genes. Directed by Tom Bonasera, this comedy covers well-worn ground yet takes psychological leaps -- seemingly for the sake of the material's one-liners and puns.
Far more successful is The Bad Place, by writer-actor Kerr Seth Lordygan. This very funny glimpse into antiseptic corporate pod culture is short and sweet, down and dirty. An average workday in the Data Supply and Conflict Avoidance Department reveals seething office liaisons, tragic gossip, and supervisorial breakdowns, all before the coffee rounds are completed. Director Justin Bowler and a super-tight cast (Jon Thomas, TL Kolman, Abbe Rowlins, Kylie Delre, Natalia Reagan, and John Dickey) do a snappy job, and Jeff Folschinsky's sound design adds just the right amount of anonymous irksomeness. We could ask for a more satisfying ending bonus, but, hey, it's all about making do and having fun. Right?
Presented by Mike Hammari and Denise Lowe at the Eclectic Company Theatre,
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood.
Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Jul. 27-Aug. 19.
(818) 508-3003. www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.