Seven plays in two hours. And none anything like those before or after it. Diversity is a distinct virtue in this 20th annual Festival of One-Act Plays, each entry selected and directed by Jeffrey Sanzel at Theatre Three’s intimate downstairs second stage.
First up is Tony Foster’s baffling “A New Lease” in which gleeful Gertie (Susan Emory) may or may not be driving a brand-new 1962 Ford Galaxy and Alice may or may not be her passenger. “Who’s Alice?” an androgynous Jacqueline Hughes asks. Each thinks the other has lost her mind. Or is this a parallel-universe “Twilight Zone”?
Patrick Gabridge’s “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” addresses Black Lives Matter with matter-of-fact father-son advice from a white dad (Brian Smith) to his black son (Skyler Quinn Johnson) — each struggling with the real-life unfairness the elder explains to the younger.
In “When Driven” by Long Islander Melanie Acampora, Maggie (Nicole Bianco) is shocked by the death-by-car-accident of her boyfriend (Mike Fales). No one, including her brother (Steven Uihlein) and best friend (Caitlin Nofi) can reach her, least of all Mom, played with resolute denial by Linda May and Dad (Steve McCoy), forcefully insisting on therapy. Guess who Maggie listens to.
“Counting Sheep” by Jae Kramisen is a comic nightmare about insomnia. Claire (Hughes) hears a disembodied voice and imagines a man (oddly suited Antoine Jones) under her bed. Only mom, a sarcastic Joan St. Onge, seems to be real. Maybe she’s why Claire can’t sleep.
Another Long Islander, Robin Doupe, earns guffaws with her “Upset Over Nothing” farce about a holiday gift no one can see but everyone wants except the woman trying to return it. Bianco demands a refund from an elflike cashier (Fales) for an empty bag her mother (Phyllis March) insists contains an invisible toy.
In Scott Gibson’s “Kitchen Fairy,” Kate Keating plays a passive-aggressive break-room enforcer who freaks out her fellow office worker (Jones) with vengeful plots against people who won’t clean their coffee cups.
The finale, “Lower Education” by Lewis Shilane, hilariously depicts a board of ed meeting in which the participants would probably misspell “ed.” Smith, in his 35th one-act play in the festival’s two decades, competes for the ignoramus prize with March and St. Onge.
Well-played by all who bring this engagingly disparate medley to life.