Story: In Open Sundays, All Makes Repaired, two travelers with auto problems going in different directions stop on their respective journeys at a little auto repair shop in a small Mississippi town on a Sunday afternoon. While unimpressive in appearance, it’s the only place open that can help them with their dilemmas. Each of the men takes a different approach to getting the attention of the friendly but easily distracted young man in charge of the shop and the unusual tow-truck driver who assists him.
In The Predicament, a group of Irish rebels in 1921 holds meetings in a safeway house in their Irish hamlet to plan their attempt to blow up barracks housing English troops in their village. They don’t appear to be the most organized team, and their disagreements don’t bode well for accomplishment of their goal. Further perplexing them is the fact that the barracks are located squarely between the village church and a popular tavern, which they hope to avoid destroying.
Highlights: First Run Theatre specializes in finding and presenting new works by playwrights in the St. Louis metropolitan area and beyond. An Evening of Predicaments offers two one-act plays under two different directors that focuses on the words of local writers Gerry Mandel (Open Sundays, All Makes Repaired) and Patrick Conroy (The Predicament).
Other Info: Mandel’s effort is more of an expanded thought than a play. His premise probes the difficulties that develop when two men have single-minded obsessions that are driven as hard as the vehicles they punish to reach their respective destinations. Joe O’Connor plays an Alabaman heading up I-55 to a business meeting in Milwaukee, while Brad Kinzel is a cocky Chicagoan transporting a vintage Corvette down to his son in New Orleans as a present from dear old dad.
They test the patience of Lewis, the genial assistant mechanic in charge on a Sunday afternoon, who isn’t too proud to call upon his friend and tow-truck driver, Jake, for expertise. Nicholas Stephens does well in the role of the affable kid in charge and A.M. Purnell is upbeat and ebullient as his pal Jake.
Director Donna Nelson lays everything out in straightforward order, but there really is little of substance or satisfaction in the tissue-thin script, which is more slice-of-life than compelling comedy.
Conroy’s two-scene vignette, The Predicament, has more of a traditional foundation to it, with a story that has a beginning, middle and end. The playwright, a native of County Tipperary in Ireland, sets his yarn nearly a century ago in an Irish village in Tipperary near the conclusion of the Irish War of Independence that led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the end of English rule in the part of Ireland that became the Irish Free State.
Robert Beck directs the one-act work that concerns itself with The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, Irish style, as Conroy makes light of explosions and attempts at destruction that go awry without killing anyone. The cast consists of Ann Stuart as the stereotypical Irish Catholic iron lady who lets the lads use her humble abode for a ‘prayer meeting,’ along with Kinzel, Stephens, Cliff Mirabella, Michael Paradise, Shane Schultz and Jeff Loeffler as the simple-minded boys determined to free their town of British tyranny.
There’s a lot of talking about dead mules, wounded cows and Stephens’ character dressing in women’s clothing to dupe the English troops, but the pace really needs to be picked up in order to give the effort any sense of momentum.
Brad Slavik provides some lively sound effects for both works, while Betsy Jones, Jim Meady, Rose Wegescheide and the casts furnish costumes and props. Conor LoPiccolo adds the lighting design to the modest sets offered by Beck, Meady and Nelson.
If you’d like to see works in their formative stage by two local playwrights, An Evening of Predicaments will fill the bill.
Play: An Evening of Predicaments
Group: First Run Theatre
Venue: Hunter Theatre, DeSmet High School, 233 North New Ballas Road
Dates: January 18, 19, 20
Tickets: $12-$15; contact 352-5114 or firstruntheatre.com
Rating: A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.