Good playwriting always starts with the story.
“Secrets,” this year’s installment of Ixion Theater’s annual bouquet of locally-written one-act plays, had an off-stage prelude. The group Review requested submissions from local writers, which it whittled down from 115 submitted scripts down to 30 nominees and then finally to the six plays being staged at Robin Theatre. Whew!
Credit for putting together this prelude goes to Ixion founder Jeff Croff and a talented trio of readers: Oralya Garza, Paige Tufford and SaDonna Croff. Tufford also took on the task of directing these six plays. Bravo to all.
The common thread for all of the plays is the idea of secrets. The result is a kaleidoscope of inti- macies, as many threads weave through the common theme. But each play stands on its own, each holding a different light to the darker areas of relationships. Somehow, together, they form a coherent whole as well. The evening is an affirmation of joyous humanity.
Opening the evening is David MacGregor’s “Small Talk.” A shy young woman (Anna Raymo) is brought in to see a psychotherapist (Angharad McGauhey) by her career-jumping boyfriend (Jesse Frawley). The boyfriend feels she is holding back his career, because she cannot engage in — what else? — small talk. The conceit is turned on end when the she discovers how easy it is to connect emotionally with someone else (Daniel Bonner) and that maybe her shallow superficial boyfriend is the real problem.
This is followed by “Honestly,” written by Stephen Korbar. A couple (Ben Guenther and Kathryn Willis) is sitting on a park bench, on the verge of a break-up. The catch here is that ending the relationship allows them to share all the lies they had told each other since the dawn of the relationship. Voila! Can this relationship now be saved?
We move from here to “Reunion,” also by MacGregor. A clueless married man (Frawley) has an opportunity to hook up with a more-than-willing former classmate (McGauhey).
Next up is Ron Frankel’s “Blind Date.” A woman (Willis) comes to a restaurant for an Internet-arranged date with a man (Frawley) who is wearing conspicuous sunglasses. She doesn’t realize that he is blind, and when he reveals this to her, she throws a fit over his “deception.” He rakes her over the coals for insensitivity to his condition. After she trounces off, there’s a twist for the audience.
“Riding lessons,” by Brett Hursey, begins with a guy (Guenther) and his imaginary clown (Bonner), and it ends with a woman (McGauhey) riding off on an imaginary unicorn.
The evening ends with “Pumps,” also by Hursey. This comedy looks at how we attach power to inanimate objects — in this case, high-heeled shoes — allowing them to transform us.
Each play builds on the one preceding it, until we realize that all these secrets have one thing in common: the sad existential loneliness that underlies all searches for relationships.
The ensemble cast of six actors, in multiple roles, deftly portray the poignant characters in these vignettes. All six of the actors perform competently and handle the diverse roles exceedingly well.
The real strength of the evening, however, is the freshness of the material itself. We sometimes give short shrift to original works, but these works display the dazzling talent of writers among us.
Ixion Theatre 8 p.m. Saturday, May 28; 7 p.m. Sunday, May 29 $15 The Robin Theatre 1105 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 775-4246, ixiontheatre.com