Little Fish Theatre opens its 2018 season with its 16th-annual Pick Of The Vine: This Year’s Best Short Plays, the top 1.78% of a whopping 505 submissions, 9 mini-plays adding up to 1 terrifically acted, directed, and designed evening of theater at its most entertainingly eclectic.

 David MacGregor’s Immersion Therapy, directed by Bill Wolski and starring Daniel Gallai, Rachel Levy, and Perry Shields, poses the question: What can a husband give his wife when he’s established a tradition of “amazing, incredible, one-of-a-kind” birthday presents? The answer turns out to be not quite what his ready-to-be-surprised wife expects.

 Barflies Sharon (Kimberly Patterson) and Mel (Gallai) meet cute in Glenn Alterman’s Ditmas, directed by Wolski, only to realize they share a connection that goes back to their days at Ditmas High.

 An elderly park habitué (Mary-Margaret Lewis) teaches her perky young protegé (Olivia Schleuter-Corey) a lesson in life, love, and letting go in Dagney Kerr’s Stay, directed by James Rice.

 Patterson and Shields return in George Sauer’s Most Popular, directed by Marlee Delia, as a married couple of onetime high school nobodies whose spur-of-the-moment decision to crash another school’s 30th Reunion provokes unexpected results.

 JC Cifranic’s The Last Word, directed by Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, has a pair of Mafia hit men (Gallai and Ryan Knight) engaging in a game of verbal one-upmanship to their intended victim’s (Shields) considerable frustration and dismay.

 The world’s greatest detective (Shields) trades deductions with his long-suffering wife (Lewis) and daughters (Levy and Schleuter-Corey) in The Case of the Missing Know-It-All by Mark Saunders, directed by Rice, to do a certain Sherlock proud.

 Mario Rivas’s Flat Earther, directed by Rice and featuring Knight and Patterson, puts a personal face on conspiracy theorists convinced that recent massacres (Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, etc.) are government-staged events. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

 Mark Harvey Levine’s whimsical Wishes, directed by Delia, has Levy begging her coins-in-a-fountain-loving boyfriend (Gallai) to stop obsessing over strangers’ wishes and start paying attention to her own.

 Finally, Irene L. Pynn’s The Train, directed by Baker-Kreiswirth and starring Knight and Schleuter-Corey, tells its short, sweet tale of love on a subway entirely through movement and dance.

Bullying, gender identity, terminal illness, gun violence, sexual hang-ups, and romance add up to one of several reasons not to miss Pick Of The Vine: This Year’s Best Short Plays.

Another is its cast of seven splendid Little Fish favorites and quartet of LFT directors, each of whom gets to shine (and show off abundant versatility) in multiple roles, multiple genres, multiple mash-ups.

Scott Walewski’s set may at first appear to be nothing more than black walls adorned with geometric shapes, but oh what wonders it hides, thanks in large measure to properties designer Madeleine Drake and scenic painters Daryl Hogue France and Mickey France.

Add to that Hector Quintero’s vibrant lighting, Elena Veroni’s eclectic selection of character-establishing costumes, and Baker-Kreiswirth’s striking sound design mix of just-right tunes and effects and you’ve got as ingenious a production design as any intimate theater lover could wish for.

Pick Of The Vine: This Year’s Best Short Plays is produced by Baker-Kreiswirth and Wolski. Jacob Severance is production stage manager. Annie Vest assumes Patterson’s roles beginning February 9.

Pick Of The Vine: This Year’s Best Short Plays, delivers what few evenings of theater can guarantee—something for everyone. Pick Of The Vine indeed. There’s not a dried-up raisin in the bunch.

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Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St. San Pedro. Through February 17. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 2:00. Reservations: 310 512-6030

–Steven Stanley
January 13, 2018
Photos: Mickey Elliott


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