Michael Micalizzi and Maren Langdon
in Love/Stories
(© Joan Marcus)
Michael Micalizzi and Maren Langdon
in Love/Stories
(© Joan Marcus)
Frustrated love affairs and quirky metatheatrics characterize Itamar Moses' evening of short plays, Love/Stories (Or But You Will Get Used To It), now at the Flea Theater. Under Michelle Tattenbaum's deft direction, the playlets -- all enacted by five actors -- are generally amusing, and at times thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.

The evening gets off to a fine start with Chemistry Read, depicting an audition scenario in which a writer (Felipe Bonilla) encounters an actor (Michael Micalizzi) who unknowingly has a more personal connection to the material than he realizes. The sketch is predictable, but is nevertheless entertainingly presented.

The second piece, Temping, kicks things into high gear as Micalizzi portrays a temp worker eavesdropping on a fellow employee (Maren Langdon) as she has an extremely personal telephone conversation. Micalizzi's facial expressions and body language are hilarious, and he and Langdon have terrific chemistry once she focuses her attention on him.

Authorial Intent is broken up into three different segments, giving different perspectives on two actors (Micalizzi and Laurel Holland) who perform a break-up scene. It's here that Moses has the most fun with his metatheatrical devices, which border on the pretentious but are so wittily performed that you're liable to find yourself laughing anyway. This sequence also contains my favorite line in the whole show: "I'm not as smart as my lack of good looks might have you believe."

The fourth work, Szinhaz, seems at first to be a simple parody of a dour Eastern European director (Bonilla) -- whose company translates as "The Slow Death of the Human Soul" -- answering questions for an American audience, with the assistance of translator and company member Marie (Langdon). However, the piece accrues a much deeper meaning, thanks largely to Langdon's nuanced performance.

Unfortunately, the fifth and final play misfires. John Russo delivers a monologue that purports to set up a scene, while instead supposedly allowing the audience into the head of its author. Russo is charismatic and articulate, but the speech flags, as there's little for him to connect to in terms of character.

As the descriptions of these five pieces indicate, Moses seems preoccupied with inserting himself or at least some kind of authorial figure into several of the texts. They may or may not be directly autobiographical, but they do seem quite personal. And while the playwright mines the humor in all of the situations depicted, he also allows for some more serious reflection.