The Western Maryland College theater began its 1992 season with two one-act plays that combined to produce a bit more than a one-play evening.

One-act plays can be challenging and rewarding, but too often one and one equals more than two.

The first of these was the charming and witty review, "Hold Me."

For some strange reason, the name of the playwright was left off the program. But most audience members could tell from the characters and situations that they were in the presence of Jules Feiffer, whosecartoons come to life in this contemporary view of insecurity.

This is not Feiffer's first piece of theater on this theme. Some two decades ago, his "Feiffer's People" was a popular and often-produced series of sketches about insecurity in the age of Vietnam and Richard Nixon.

Director Steve Parsons has done a terrific job of choreographing this busy piece and keeping the tempo fast and light. He furtherhas ensured a quality experience by valid and interesting casting.

Veteran WMC actor Scott Grocki is consistently effective with his various characterizations, reaching his zenith with the portrayal of Bernard's father. We all recognize Bernard, whose entire existence screams out "hold me."

Jennifer Dean, misdirected in the recent WMC production of "Equus," returns to her usual capable and effective form, giving a most engaging, delightful and amusing performance.

Newcomers Reid Wraase and Ellen Krauth, while generally acceptable, are abit too tentative for this style of theater. Krauth will become a force on stage once she gains vocal power.

The highlight of the evening is the wonderful performance of Sarah Lundberg as "The Dancer." Her Leslie Caron face with its explosive smile is infectious, and no one can top her ability to demonstrate the journey from ecstasy to despair.

Parsons gets the evening off splendidly with Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

Unfortunately, his ending paled by comparison.The transitions from sketch to sketch would have benefited from greater and more imaginative use of sound and light. The environment can be as transformational as the people in it.

The curtain call for the second piece, Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit," was too long, clumsy, unsynchronized, inconsistent and anti-theatrical.

One of the actors even physically and verbally "shoved" a colleague aside to take a bow. None looked pleased to be there. It was a microcosm of the production.

This second production exemplified the disservice done by well-meaning, but ill-advised mentors who allow paid public performances of the efforts of undergraduates untrained and inexperienced in directing.

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