TAIL EATS SNAKE, Side Project, at the Side Studio. The title for this showcase of nine short plays comes from a gnostic symbol of nature's renewal. But most of the writers--aiming for "a socio-political look at the passage of time and the patterns that emerge," according to artistic director Adam Webster--focus on war, civil disorder, and death. The evening's dramatic metaphors range from the obvious--hunting doves for sport--to the enigmatic: an American marketer despairs of selling cotton to the Chinese. The approach is sometimes didactic--Designer Genes delivers a symposium on cloning issues awkwardly disguised as conversation--and sometimes lyrical, as in a poetic montage of a suicide bomber's last thoughts.

Twenty actors playing 37 characters is a lot to absorb in two and a half hours. This welter of talent in the rough, however, reveals some names to remember: Playwright Myles Weber, whose Expatriates (under Michael Graham's direction) offers a glimpse of lovers living in the shadow of terrorist attacks. Actor Kipp Moorman, who lends a sly humor to the verbose Little Green Man. And director Lisa Krichilsky, who along with actors Ricardo Gamboa and Lindley Gibbs and a live goldfish render Bilal Dardail's flimsy Staring Contest, or The Enemy In Orange inexplicably appealing.

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