Short Order

Degas C'est Moi, a humorous and cerebral work by David Ives, tightly directed by Michael Montel, with Adam Koster delivering a well-tuned tongue-in-cheek performance as Ed, the regular schnook who wakes up convinced he's the dead French painter.

The Twelve-Forty, written by Barry Brodsky and directed by Steve Wise, in which a white man (Koster) with everything to lose encounters a black man (Randolph) while waiting for a train in the dark.

The Heartsick Pioneer, written by Kenneth Lonergan and directed by Elena Wohl. Nellie Gwynn, a sublime young actress with a sensual voice and a killer stage presence, plays a cop fending off the advances of a security guard (Todd Behrend).

The Pennysaver, Staci Swedeen's comic swipe at a dysfunctional family preparing to leave one house and move into a bigger and better one. Directed by Gail Garrisan, it features Randolph as Puss Cat, Moreland as the mother, and Garcia as a toddler, along with Behrend, Wise, and Finnerty Steeves.

Undiscovered Medicine, Craig Carlisle's exploration of friendship and mortality insightfully directed by Gary Sales, with Randolph, Paul Tei, and George Contini as three buddies (one with a terminal illness) who commiserate around a coffee-shop table.

Downtown, written by Jeffrey Hatcher with crisp direction by Maria Banda-Rodaz, in which three writer wanna-be's (Moreland, Contini, Gwynn) lust for success while dissing the crowd in a hip downtown club.

Closing Time, a powerful work by Miami writer David Latner, with direction by Barry Steinman. What seems at first to be yet another piece in which a hopeless drunk monopolizes the stage while philosophizing about life turns into a paean to friendship between an alcoholic and the owner of a liquor store. Movingly interpreted by Haig and Contini.

American Welcome, acclaimed Irish dramatist Brian Friel's monologue about the uneasy cultural alliance between Britain and the U.S., wherein the playwright proves that English is an utterly different language than American. Directed by Lantaff with a stinging performance by Contini.

The Office, a brilliant farce by Kate Hoffower, hilariously directed by Lecure, and splendidly acted by Steeves, Garcia, and Norman -- three women who ricochet between ennui and fantasy within the paper-clip crisis atmosphere of modern office life. (My personal favorite -- girlfriend, I've been there.)

Summer Shorts offers at least a few more pleasures than the ones mentioned above, and I recommend taking in the entire fete in one evening, total-immersion style, with a break for a picnic dinner on sale in the Ring Theatre's courtyard between programs. Then again, a theater critic has a higher tolerance for sitting through long nights in one chair than does the average spectator. However you decide to divide and conquer its offerings, this festival delivers some of the freshest -- and sauciest -- works in town.

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