Alex Neher, Katie Hayes (seated), Lauren Balmer,
and Charlie Wilson in Plato's Retreat
(© Kyle Ancowitz)
Alex Neher, Katie Hayes (seated), Lauren Balmer,
and Charlie Wilson in Plato's Retreat
(© Kyle Ancowitz)
Internet pornography is the unifying theme of Standards of Decency 3: 300 Vaginas Before Breakfast, presented by Blue Coyote Theater Group at Access Theater. This program of short plays is a mixed bag, but there are some definite highlights.

The best piece is also the last on the program: Date Night at Skintastic Dot Com, written by Mac Rogers and smoothly directed by Robert Buckwalter. In it, Sam (Jeremy Plyburn) and Connie (Rebecca Comtois), an entrepreneurial couple who founded and run a site that showcases candid nude shots of celebrities, are attempting to take a night off, but are distracted by the potential acquisition of a much sought-after picture. What makes the play so enchanting is that it focuses less on the salacious nature of the couple's business, and more on their relationship dynamic. It also helps that Plyburn and Comtois have terrific chemistry together.

Another two-hander featuring a wonderful pair of actors is Romance, penned by Jacqueline Christy, and directed by Kyle Ancowitz. The piece starts off with a teacher (David Lapkin) and a mother (Katherine Puma) meeting to discuss a paper written by the woman's son. It turns out that instead of doing the assigned reading, the boy watched a pornographic version of the story, and wrote on that instead. The parent-teacher conference is made even more awkward -- and amusing -- as we find out more about the two adults, who just might fulfill the promise within the playwright's title for the short play.

Jordan Seavey's any one: seven or so touches in ten or so minutes, directed by Buckwalter, is a nicely realized collection of brief scenes that follows a woman (Rachel Craw) through the course of one day with the focus on the moments of physical contact she makes with acquaintances and strangers. The final scene makes an ironic commentary on the way the woman has responded to these points of contact, and is also touching in its depiction of her feelings of isolation.

Matthew Freeman's The Metaphor, directed by Ancowitz, is one of the more farcical scenes of the evening, as it involves a female priest (Amanda Jones) counseling a porn-addicted parishioner (Matthew Trumbull). The discussion does not go the way you might expect, and the actors play up the situation for all its humor, yet maintain a grounded quality that makes it even funnier.

Ancowitz also directs Adam Symkowicz's 300, about a young couple (Stephanie Willing and Charlie Wilson) who, for the first time, engage in a discussion about their sexual histories. This one's also played for laughs, and gets them easily.

The remaining four pieces Cheri Magid's Camera Four, David Johnston's A Lesson, Bruce Goldstone's Bits, and David Foley's Plato's Retreat -- are of lesser quality. They are all directed by Gary Shrader, which is probably not coincidental, as many of the problems stem from poor choices in casting, staging, pacing, and tone.