For those hoping to catch a crafty play, “Hope” provides eight chances to do so.
“Hope” is an assemblage of eight original vignettes culled from 247 submissions to Ixion Theatre. They came from all over the United States and as far away as Canada and Australia.
Although the required theme of “hope” may not always be strongly apparent in each mini-play, the cleverness of each script certainly is. Scott Mullen’s “172 Push Ups” opens the less-than-two-hour-with-intermission show. From its start —and all through the “Hope” collection—the Robin Theatre audience is drawn to strong characters played by a rotating cast of seven.
Each play has a novel premise that delightfully requires some deducing. Figuring out the revelations in each helps make the plays engaging. Director Rose Jangmi Cooper’s quick pace and fast flow between the pieces make the show’s length never tiresome. When one play ends, there’s always anticipation for what the next might be.
In “172 Push Ups,” The contrast between a modern servicewoman and an older, former male soldier is explored. In “The Winter in the House,” by Lauren Ferebee, the conflict between levels of male dominance and female rebellion are revealed.
The third vignette, “One, Two, Three,” by Michael Weems, has laughable moments, but its focus on stress and memory loss makes the humor dark. Act I ends with Andrea Clardy’s “Hijab.” It also earns laughs, but they are induced by the silliness of a self-centered, insensitive airhead.
Act II opens with “Be More 282,” by Rich Espey. Knowing the author hails from Baltimore, and that 282 was the city’s murder count for the year, makes this play easier to decipher. It features a pregnant white woman and a young black man who have a link that’s not initially apparent. The mystery unfolds with some chuckles only to lead to a grim ending.
Ellen Sullivan’s “Classics for Kids” is the funniest and most lighthearted play in the bunch. The realization that its three characters are actually letters of the alphabet adds to the fun. “Low Light,” by Allie Costa, follows with a grim tale of two detainees. The more they expose their pasts, the scarier their predicament becomes.
The final play, “Scripted” — by Mark Harvey Levine — has a brilliant and mysterious premise that is quickly revealed. Its “Twilight Zone” style ends in an upbeat manner.
The troupe of local acting vets — and some newbies — morphs from role-to-role with finesse. Leo Poroshin, Lekeathon Wilson, Sadonna Croff, Paul Schmidt, Muthu Jayatissa, Ellie Weise and Jacquelyn Marks all demonstrate the ability to garner compassion or disdain for their characters. To do so, there’s little more than shifting boxes to tell stories that all make statements. Clint Hoagland’s diverse, digital sound additions also help define the settings of very different situations.
Ixion’s artistic director, Jeff Croff, was one of five readers who limited the “Hope” submissions to 28 finalists and then helped pick the eight winners. For the past five seasons, Ixion has put out a call for writers to vie for the chance to see their plays performed. Croff said it was “a need to encourage new works and build potential future collaborations” that propelled this formidable task.
Besides fulfilling Ixion’s mission, “Hope” offers the public the experience of enjoying fascinating scripts, well executed.
“Hope: A Collection of Short Plays”
Ixion Theatre Ensemble
Saturday, May 25, 8 to 10 p.m.
Sunday, May 26, 2 to 4 p.m.
The Robin Theatre
1105 S Washington Ave., Lansing