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A Folding Table Takes Center Stage:

Small theater was on display in March at Culver City’s Fanatic Salon venue, as a collection of five short plays written and directed by Mirror columnist Steve Stajich ran Tuesday evenings during the month.That’s “small” as in a cozy 50-seat theater, an ensemble cast of six, an intimate original music score by Jon Kull, and a set consisting of nothing more than a folding table. But the presentation was broad in humor and rather large in contemporary social commentary and acting performances.Under the collective title of An Evening with a Folding Table, the five short plays – 10 to 15 minutes each – address our fear of the unknown, our expectations/disappointments in family commitments, and our misplaced sense of self-importance. But all with a sense of humor.Each play is more than a skit, but rather a small piece of drama. The opening one, “The Basement,” features a couple shopping for a home and a reluctant real estate agent who eventually acknowledges that the former owner was hacked to death with a hatchet in the basement. The folding table, set vertically on end, serves as the never-opened door to the basement where the husband wants to set up his model train layout but the wife does not want to venture.In the succeeding dramas, the folding table – set up at a variety of angles – does service as a doctor’s out-patient examining/treatment table, a cruise ship railing, a screen/enclosure for unseen miniature mysteries, and the suggestion of structural elements on an offshore oil drilling platform sinking after an earthquake.Between the plays, actor John Carney repositions the folding table with entertaining dramatic flourish to the accompaniment of Jon Kull’s Joplin-style ragtime music.Paul Schackman displays excellent timing in “The Basement” as well as a real talent for continuing to act when the spotlight is not on him. Frank Noon masters the doctor’s role, especially the expressions of a concerned physician, in “Clip,” although I could not imagine what he could possibly be writing in the nearly constant chart entries with which he kept his hands occupied. “Jump Ship” was the weakest play of the group, although it did provide a vehicle for the impressive comedic talents of Sterling Fitzgerald as the newlywed wife entering upon matrimony for the third time.In “Tiny Horses,” Carney is on the verge of overacting his role, but it suits the spoof nature of the script very well. In the final play, “Oil Rig!,” Stajich manages to work in his social and political commentary on any number of subjects: Kym Lane as a female oil rigger who responds to every question put to her, “Why? Because I’m a woman?” Noon, on a reference to certain fish, “Mackerel? That’s so racist!” And Schackman, offering a prayer seeking God’s intercession to save the sinking rig in spite of its eco-unfriendly work, “Everybody liked [gas guzzling] trucks; everybody liked sitting up high and looking down on everyone else – kind of like You.”Lights and audio, including a new twist on the please-turn-off-your-cell-phones-and-pagers announcement, were by Kersten Kretzschmar.

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