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LA Theater Review

Best of the Circus Theatricals Festival of One Act Plays 2010

In a town where one-act play festivals are as plentiful as palm trees, Circus Theatricals' mounting of its audience's favorites from the past two years is something truly special, accomplishing far more than to simply showcase grumbling and often disenchanted company members eager to get onstage. First and foremost, this hourlong evening of short two- or three-character one-acts introduces the work of a quartet of spectacular new playwrights, each heralding a promising career at a time when new voices are sorely needed.

Hal Corley's "A Man Who Knows How to Hold a Baby" and Matt Tucker's "Game 7," both directed by Jack Stehlin, are straightforward character-driven one-acts. Corley's features fine performances by Brendan Brandt as a young man traveling to meet his real father, accompanied by the understandably nervous man who raised him as his own (Thomas Kopache). Tucker's features a sad encounter between another father and son (Scott Sheldon and John Ross Clark), these two dealing with the alienation of affections rather than the solidification of the pair's familial bond.

But the final trio of plays lifts the evening from exceptional to must-see. Each seems as though created as an homage to Kopit or Durang, and each features three sets of wonderful actors pulling out all the stops. Mona Lee Wylde and Tom Groenwald (channeling early Bill Irwin) are particularly hilarious as a wildly dysfunctional brother and sister set on frightening away his potential romantic interest (Lisa Christensen) in Dawson Moore's "The War of Virginia and Alabama," directed by Clark. Sheldon returns with a knockout turn as a homeless mental patient taken in by a couple (Vanessa Waters and Joe Bays) looking for social relevance and a boost to their sagging marriage in Greg Kalleres' "Gibberish," directed by Stehlin. Bibi Tinsley takes chances stepping into the skin of a posturing, urban-weary gallery owner visiting her stroke-felled friend (John Copeland) and his Bill-and-Ted-esque caregiver (Brandt) in Stephen Brantley's "Struck," directed by Jordan Lund.

This short and sweet festival not only provides a slate of worthy vehicles created by a group of writers from whom hopefully we'll all hear a lot more, but it also offers an event clearly able to display the unique talents of a dynamic ensemble of highly committed artists.

Presented by Circus Theatricals at the Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Oct. 30-Nov. 20. Sat., 8 p.m. (310) 701-0788. www.circustheatricals.com.

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