Sarah Megan Thomas and Reese Madigan
in Estimated Time of Arrival
(© Zach Veilleux)
Sarah Megan Thomas and Reese Madigan
in Estimated Time of Arrival
(© Zach Veilleux)
In each of the five one-acts that comprise Thirteenth Night Theatre Company's Estimated Time of Arrival, the characters seem to be waiting for their relationships to begin, end, or maybe begin again. The short works by Amy Fox, Lisa Ebersole, Anthony Minghella, and Michael Weller deal with romance, marriage, and break-ups amongst 20- and 30-something white heterosexuals. As with any program of shorts penned by different writers, some are better than others. But they're all deftly directed by Drew DeCorleto and nicely acted by Ethan James Duff, Reese Madigan, Jamie Proctor, and Sarah Megan Thomas.

The most accomplished segment is Weller's "Split Part One," originally written in 1980 and seen a few years ago as the second act in Broken Watch Theatre Company's presentation of Split, also directed by DeCorleto. The piece smartly probes the resentments that can build up in a long-term relationship and the way the smallest, most inconsequential things can trigger a major argument. Paul (Madigan) and Carol (Thomas) have been married six years, and to outside appearances they are "the perfect couple." Yet, Carol is jealous of Paul's devotion to his female friend Jean and wonders why he acts differently around their friends than he does at home. Meanwhile, Paul is repressing his anger and frustration over a large number of aspects of his life, some (but not all) involving Carol; these eventually explode to the surface in a torrent of rage. Both actors are pitch-perfect, uncovering the ugliness and unhappiness within the couple's lives while also displaying their desperate desire to hang on to the love they once felt and maybe even continue to feel for one another.

Nearly as good is Anthony Minghella's "Hang Up," originally written as a BBC radio drama. The nameless male and female characters, played by Duff and Proctor, are an unmarried couple who speak to each other on the telephone. They bicker from almost the very beginning of their call, while also expressing feelings of loneliness, mistrust, fear, and tenderness. Duff has a low-key delivery that has an undercurrent of bitterness, while Proctor's angrier tone disguises her character's feelings of guilt.

Estimated Time of Arrival begins and ends with two one-acts by Fox, both of which are world premieres. The first, "Double Click," is an amusing piece about Internet dating, and specifically JDate.com. It's got some great lines, such as "I think you're the kind of guy who can make me feel lonely" and, in regards to a non-Jew who uses the site, "they don't check for foreskin." In Fox's "The Man Who Didn't Own a Hatshop," the playwright focuses on two strangers at a coffee shop who begin a flirtation based upon lies. While that may sound heavy-handed, the piece is actually quite light and breezy. Unfortunately, neither play probes too far beneath the characters' exteriors and both end somewhat abruptly.

The same critiques can be leveled against Ebersole's "Methinks." This piece finds former sweethearts Laurel (Thomas) and Bo (Madigan) meeting up for the first time since their break-up five years ago. The play seems a bit clichéd, showcasing the characters' petty jealousies and renewed attraction without saying anything really new or interesting. It's the shortest piece on the bill, however, and the actors are engaging enough for the audience to maintain interest.

Between scenes, cast members move around the set pieces of David Evans Morris' adaptable design into different configurations. Juliet Chia's lighting, Michael L. Cooper's sound, and Jessa-Raye Court's costumes also help to make each play distinct from one another. At an intermissionless 90 minutes, the evening goes by fairly quickly and while not everything is as perfect as it could be, it's good enough to warrant a "second date" the next time Thirteenth Night puts on a show.