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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Virtual ‘Sure Thing,’ ‘Identity Theft’ pack different punches

Critic At Large

Play by Play Theatre’s ‘One-Act Weekend,’ Part 2

Mary Ehlinger, left, and Sarah Doyle in Play-by-Play Theatre’s production of “Identity Theft.” (Warren Gerds screenshot)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – For its first three plays, the virtual “One-Act Weekend” of Play-by-Play Theatre skipped along with crackling comedies. The fourth play seemed to be headed in that direction, and then it evolved and evolved to be huggable/touching.

Artistic director Mary Ehlinger broadly expanded the identity of her theater’s unique venture with this concept: Four plays, one weekend, virtual, two plays on Saturday only, two plays on Sunday only, local actors (or with local connections), free (with donations accepted).

Offered today, Sunday, Nov. 22, are “Sure Thing” and “Identity Theft.” Info: playbyplaytheatre.com.

Show image.

+ “Sure Thing” by David Ives

Featuring: Elizabeth McMonagle Pragel and Greg Pragel

Directed by: Teresa Aportela Sergott

Running time: 16 minutes

Ding! Playwright David Ives uses the sound of a bell to change directions of conversation between a man and woman who meet in a restaurant.

Like: She says she is waiting for a “sort of boyfriend.”

He: “What’s a sort of boyfriend?”

She: “My husband.”

Ding! She then offers a different answer until the conversation can proceed.

“Sure Thing” scene. (Screenshot)

The humor is a bit heady, with William Faulkner, Ingmar Bergman and Westchester being part of the playing field. But the man-woman byplay is the main thrust.

Veteran area director Teresa Aportela Sergott teams with Equity actors and wife and husband Elizabeth McMonagle (local name) Pragel and Greg Pragel for the funny wordplay. The thing clicks.

A couple of thoughts on virtual in this case: One. In a theater, the audience usually is seated at a distance from the players. With virtual in this case, the viewing is “right there,” and expressions and nuances are clear and pronounced. Two. Each player sometimes has interior thoughts, and the camera in this production shifts to solely be on the man or woman as he or she reveals feelings akin to that of an evil twin, comically so.

The ending has a special touch as the camera, which has been static, slowly moves in on the man and woman.

Show image.

+ “Identity Theft” by Eddie Antar

Featuring: Sarah Doyle and Mary Ehlinger

Directed by: Mary Ehlinger

Running time: 21 minutes

After Mrs. O’Connor answers her telephone from an insurance salesperson, she gladly agrees to a purchase with no pressuring. What has taken place between she and Rita the salesperson is bubbly talk that’s sometimes chatty/personal.

This is under the guise of something else from playwright Eddie Antar, who has much more to say about family and adoption and chance. (Speaking of identity, Google the name, and another Eddie Antar is first on the list, one who did not write but was familiar with writs).

Mary Ehlinger directs the cast of two. One. Sarah Doyle, who draws out the sensitivities of Rita, who leads a complex single-mom life while managing to buoy along in a job shored by desperation. Two. Herself, in a stretch of a role that balances humor with poignance. Slowly by slowly, “Identity Theft” steals into the heart.

Not equal is the clarity of the picture between the screens of the two home settings of the players, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes with local virtual productions. The effectiveness of the play and the players is still there.

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