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Theatre Review: One Act at a Time

One-act plays are alive and well on the Westside, as the successful run of In Front of the Eight Ball at the FanaticSalon theater in Culver City has attested.  Written and directed by Santa Monica Mirror columnist Steve Stajich (“Stych,” as the program explains), this collection of eight one-acts is under an hour and a half in length, with each play running from a few minutes to perhaps 20 minutes, leaving one smiling and thinking for some days.

The plays have nothing to do with the game of pool or with the proverbial 8-ball as the term has derived from that game, other than the incidental fact that there are eight of them.  Stajich considered titling the collection “Furniture” because the only thing the plays have in common is that each has one table and two chairs on the stage, but better marketing minds prevailed.

The plays, though short, are each works in themselves, says Stajich, and not merely “sketches or bits.”  And they are.  In “Strength,” actors Rick Batalla and Jim Roof (sitting in two chairs at one table) discuss their lives in a way that makes the audience chuckle and at the same time reflect seriously on their own lives thus far.  In “Sincerity,” actors Wade Kelley and Batalla engage in an outrageous job interview (the table serving as a desk), with a delightful twist provided by the interviewer’s “secretary,” played by Sarah Maine.

The collection of one-acts ran for five Tuesday nights from October 23 through November 27 at the 47-seat equity waiver (or “black box”) theater on Sawtelle Boulevard, just off Venice Boulevard. Stajich would like to stage the show again, perhaps in a larger venue, but has no concrete plans to do so at this time.  He likes the non-equity venue as a way of introducing his work, and says that the ability to offer theater for a $10 admission makes the work “accessible” and “democratic.”The nine-member cast was heartfelt and entertaining in their performances, and made each of the short plays strike a chord that the audience could identify with.  Stajich gathered the group from Santa Monica’s Ruskin Group Theatre, from an earlier collection of one-acts he staged a year ago in Venice, and from his days in stand-up comedy.

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