Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) has brought together an ambitious project for this summer, by bringing together three one act plays from three of Hollywood’s greats: Steve Martin, Woody Allen and Sam Shepard. “An Evening of One Acts” is a trio of comedy short stories with one being excellent, another terrible and the third is “just okay,” but hey, two out of ain’t bad. This isn’t to say that the actors are not doing their jobs, they are. All of the actors involved (Jessica Skerritt, Eric Ray Anderson, Quinn Armstrong, Chris Ensweiler, David Foubert and Hana Lass) are all excellent in their roles and go for broke during their performances. Some will disagree, but it is the writing of the third story that is the main problem with the performance. But first, let’s talk about the good.
“Patter for the Floating Lady” was written in 1999 by Steve Martin and apparently written about his personal break up with actress Anne Heche told in allegorical form. A magician (Foubert) takes center stage to talk about what went wrong with his relationship with Angie (Skerrit), his assistant within a magic act. With the help of Angie’s assistant (Lass), a surprise to the magician, the truth comes out. The sketch is the shortest show of the night. It has some funny moments and the set-up of the magic act is genius, but the story is more of a monologue than a play and feels unfinished. The magician is contemplative about his relationship and the performance has a more of a serious feel to it. With Martin knowing a thing or two about magic acts, and comedy for that matter, I had expected more. Still, others in the crowd thought that this story was the best of the three.
“Riverside Drive,” written in 2003 by Woody Allen is by far the best of the show and is worth seeing. Allen’s work can be hit or miss at times, but this one is spot on. It is clever in its delivery, has a lot of humor and the story in unpredictable which makes it all the more fun to watch. The story involves Jim (Ensweiler) a screenwriter (who looks and acts a lot like Woody) who is finally confronted by a vagrant Fred (Anderson) who has been stalking the writer for weeks. Fred accuses Jim of stealing his screenplay, but Jim knows that the two have never met. Still, Fred knows a lot about Jim including Barbara (Skerrit), the woman Jim is seeing on the side. The bantering back of forth of the two is priceless.
After intermission comes “The Unseen Hand” a most bizarre story written by Shepard back in 1970. If I understood the story correctly, it involves a recluse named “Blue” (Anderson) living in the middle of the dessert in his worn down car. One night he is visited by an alien who goes by the name of “Willie” (Lass) who is under the power of the “unseen hand” and longs to break free of its grip. Along for the ride is Blue’s long lost brothers (Foubert and Ensweiler) and a high school student (Armstrong) who has been tormented by a rival school. The story is slow and each character has moments where they just rattle on and on without moving the story forward. It is also very weird leaving one to scratch his head and wonder what it was that he just witnessed. Perhaps the story would have worked better if the story was funnier, but probably not.
“An Evening of One Acts” continues at ACT through August 17 performances on Tuesday through Sunday. Tickets start at $44 with discounts available for seniors and students under the age of 25. Tuesday performances are just $20 and a few “pay what you can afford” performances will be held each Sunday and during the Thursday matinees. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone by calling (206) 292-7676. ACT is located at 700 Union Street in Seattle 98101.