The writers contributing to Playwrights' Round Table's current shorts program, "Launch 2012," are interested in life on the edge. The collection of seven 10- to 15-minute-long plays is mostly focused on little moments in people's lives — little moments with big repercussions.
Some of the moments are serious: A man questions his belief system while his partner lies in a coma, a recently released prisoner takes drastic action when freedom proves overwhelming. Others find a lighter side: What's percolating inside two youngsters' brains when they lock eyes at a coffeeshop, or what chaos ensues when a scientist tries to change history with her time machine.
Taken together, the playlets add up to satisfying food for thought, not so ponderous as to tire the brain yet not so lighthearted as to be forgettable.
The best of the bunch keep the audience guessing. In "Chasing the Bear" by David Middleman, a nervous young man (George Patages) takes his mentally handicapped half-brother (Jo'el Perez) to the woods, ostensibly to trap a bear. Swigs from a whiskey bottle and a shotgun that may or may not be loaded add to a growing sense of unease. Something isn't right, but what? Director Daniel Cooksley keeps the tension high till the end.
In "The Right Thing" by Elise Edie, a tough mama (Cira Larkin) sends away her unmarried teen daughter (Elizabeth Leonhard) to have a baby in the South of the late 1950s. The women quickly form an impressive bond through the daughter's despair and the mother's rigidity. But things aren't always as black-and-white as they seem, as Larkin's expressive face shows.
Eugenie Carabatsos' "Recalculating" covers familiar ground in the story of a couple whose marriage has lost its spark, though Tim Bass and Sylvia Viles Vicchiullo have a nice rapport as the spouses. David Strauss' "Escape Into Captivity" provides sharp character sketches but muddies its point by introducing too many ideas in its short running time.
On the lighter side, "If You Could Go Back" by Arthur M. Jolly lets Brett Carson and Rob DelMedico show off their comic talents as they stumble back through time to kill Hitler — only to find the world turns out worse off. Director Nicole Carson keeps the action moving, but doesn't let it get in the way of a good comic one-liner.
Cory Boughton and Candy Heller also show comedic chops in "Third First Person" by Alex Dremann. As two self-obsessed young singles, the audience hears their inner thoughts. Even as Dremann's play revels in clichés — the stylized format, the pretentious use of the third person — it mocks them to humorous effect.
The greatest acting challenge falls to David Almeida, who meets it gracefully in Stephen J. Miller's "7 Days." Almeida is a self-proclaimed atheist who during a crisis can't stop talking about religion as he chats with an unseen stranger in a hospital waiting room. In turn silly, serious, forlorn and giddy, Almeida shows us all the heightened emotions of life on the edge.
•What: Playwrights' Round Table's evening of short plays
•Length: 2:15, with intermission
•Where: Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays; through Jan. 22
•Tickets: $15; $12 students, seniors and military; cash at the door
•Call: 407-761-2683Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun