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Column

Live Active Cultures

If there's a theme running through this year's Summer Shorts presented by Playwrights' Round Table, it's communication breakdown

The first time I devoted this column to Playwrights' Round Table, the Central Florida organization dedicated to developing original scripts, we were in the midst of the 2008 presidential campaign. Back then, PRT themed their annual "Summer Shorts" slate around "red versus blue." Four years later, we're again mired in the midst of an election, but this time PRT is steering clear of politics. Their current anthology (appearing at Orlando Shakes through Aug. 5) has no explicit theme, but a thread of miscommunication runs through these seven showlets.

Hot Salsa in Space
(Written by David Strauss; directed by Daniel Cooksley) You're unlikely to bump into any astrophysicists at 3 a.m. in the Snappy Snack Shack convenience store; only philosophizing stoner Nell (Jenn Gannon) and her studious assistant manager pal, Sally (Marie George), are awake when Bob (Sam Waters) barges in, babbling in foreign tongues. It's soon revealed that Bob is an extraterrestrial with a wonky translator, lured to Earth by an interstellar Doritos advertisement. Waters is winningly wacky, channeling Shatner and Nixon; beneath the silly surface the script has something witty to say about the importance of "uniqueness."

The Peach
(Written by Alex Dremann; directed by Chuck Dent) Jake (Jim McClellan) may be an oafish bruiser with an annoying laugh and a head like an overripe peach, but at least the guy knows what he likes: eating pie and beating people to death with his bare hands (not necessarily in that order). Normally he doesn't think twice about the targets on the purple Post-its his mafia handler, Karwacki, hands him. But when the newest name is his own, Jake finally has to think for himself. In an odd tonal mix, the Abbott & Costello-esque comic wordplay is replaced by brutal violence in the abrupt ending.

The Secret of Jarlsberg
(Written by Arthur M. Jolly; directed by Jenny Ornstein) Sure, you can try making fondue from cheap cheddar and flour, but if you're going to do it right you have to spring for the high-dollar fromage. When underemployed student Reynold (Corey Volence) blows his girlfriend's (Julie Snyder) waitressing earnings on Norwegian cheese, their relationship nearly crumbles like cubed bread. This kitchen-sink drama feels authentically angsty until its final moments, when it suddenly turns unrealistically romantic.
One Three Two
(Written by Michael Weems; directed by David Strauss) What happens to an accountant who loses his numbers? Jake (Daniel Cooksley) takes a long walk when he realizes that the digits that constantly dance around in his head – phone numbers, addresses, ATM PINs, security codes – have suddenly vanished, leaving his wife (Amy Pastoor) confused and panicked. Cooksley is dynamite delivering a run-on monologue on the overwhelming complexity of modern life, but it's all over too soon; this intriguing concept needs a longer format to fully develop.

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