Raconteur Theatre Company is in the midst of hosting their Annual Flex Series, a night of several shorts broken into two acts. Patrons have the option of paying to see half or all of the shows depending on their budgets and time commitments.
This year’s series, titled “The Big Picture,” is dedicated to Pittsburgh-bred, but nationally known, playwright Mark Harvey Levine. Raconteur partners with MadLab Theatre (who produces a Levine show it seems every year) to present 12 of Levine’s short for a night of great writing, but with equal parts hit and miss on the production front.
My favorite sketch of the night is “Shades” featuring Jenn Barlup, Andy Batt and Stephen Woosely who play out variations on the soap opera theme girl-caught-cheating-with-ex. Played at first as Rick the Art Dealer (Batt) trying to sell a piece to an interested wife (Barlup) and uninterested husband (Woosley), Levine leads you through several different perspective, at one point employing an animalistic tone where each character only communicates with each other using monkey noises. And then ends with a version where you finally see that the wife is making Rick act like an art dealer to hide the true reason why he’s there.
I also enjoyed “Howard,” a time traveling spoof featuring Batt, John Feather and Sean Reid, all as Howard at different ages trying to stop himself from making the biggest mistake or best decision of his life, depending on the age that tells the story.
“A Walk in the Ocean” featuring Thanh Nguyen and Jill Ceneskie is lackluster. A woman walking on the beach with her boyfriend decides to break off the relationship but her blathering partner waxes poetic and somehow convinces her to stay. And “A Fit of Pique” was a bit over the top. Carmen Scott plays a woman who can only be tolerable in a relationship when she’s constantly being pestered and annoyed by her sister.
The night continues in this fashion, each skit residing on one end of the spectrum or the other. The “flex” part of this deal doesn’t really help, however, as both acts are equally lopsided. I’ve been a fan of Levine for some time and would recommend, at the very least, you check out the full show just for his sure fire wit.
“The Big Picture” finishes it’s run at Club Diversity, 863 S. High Street, Columbus, this weekend. Tickets are $15. For more information visit http://www.raconteurtheatre.com.