While 19 isn’t one of those significant numbers ending in zero, it’s enough to signify tradition. Theatre Three’s 19th annual Festival of One-Act Plays, no longer a toddler but a soon-to-be young adult, adds new chapters by authors whose credentials recommend, if not demand, attention. Director Jeffrey Sanzel molds them into a collection of curious observations focused by their anecdotal brevity.
John Kane leads off the six plays with “Ben and Rachel Go to the Movies,” an album of cinematic memories beginning with the first date for a couple sweetly played by Brian Smith and TracyLynn Conner. From “Doctor Zhivago” through a “Hobbit” epic, they still love Julie Christie — and each other — at 80.
Skipping to the finale, Big Data rules life choices — especially mate assignment — in Tom Moran’s “OK Computer.” Marriages are arranged through cyber-processing. Steve Ayle and Linda May are the brainwashed parents of Colin3912 (restive Hans Paul Hendrickson). Amanda Geraci as Jillian1293 is eager to submit to Data destiny while daring Jacqueline Hughes plays the rebel. As Big Data herself, an authoritarian Joan St. Onge will have none of it.
In “A Clean Dislike,” Alex Dremann’s exercise in semantic absurdity, office workmates May and St. Onge gleefully share in civil detail why they just don’t like each other. “Your pleasure somehow offends me.” It’s a riposte we can imagine but would never repeat to an unfavored colleague.
Kurt Sass’ “Why This Monologue Isn’t Memorized” is a mesmerizingly empathetic soliloquy for Steve McCoy as a survivor of electric shock therapy whose suicidal thoughts have been erased along with his short-term memory. In two minutes, he won’t remember any of our faces.
“Bro,” Robb Willoughby’s Hitchcockian delight, presents Smith as a paranoid older sibling to gullible Brett Chizever. Big bro is convinced that Mom (a tolerantly patient Sheila Sheffield) has murdered Dad and will kill them, too, for the insurance.
“Flying Low,” Jules Tasca’s ripped-from-the-headlines re-imagining of the flight deliberately smashed into an Alps mountainside, puts us inside the doomed aircraft. Chairs matching those of the audience are arranged in rows onstage, their backs to us. Dondi Rollins Jr. as the pilot elucidates psychotic triggers with wild-eyed conviction. Conner as the girlfriend who dumped him, May as his doctor and Ayle as the co-pilot locked out of the cabin inhabit the terror, enveloping the cast and us, seated in coach.
You may not want to fly the next day.