Fifedom: Pair o' Dese & One o' Dose, Side Project, at the Side Studio. Playwright Michael R. Fife's trio of one-act parodies is certainly airtight thematically: all three targets involve sexual stagnation. Of course 1930s film noir, Merchant-Ivory costume dramas, and Harold Pinter works are sitting ducks, but Fife does well at peeling away their polite veneers and bringing out the undercurrents of repression and oppression. It's just a pity his satirical instincts aren't sharper: egregious puns and ironic asides undercut his otherwise intelligent approach and more or less banish "Fifedom" to the realm of toothless parody.
Of the three, The Coffee Table--which revisits the perverse love triangle of Pinter's Betrayal--easily fares the best. Fife's script is tight and exacting, and the cast nails the almighty Pinter pause and stunted rhythms. Moreover, it plays well in the Side Studio: Adam Webster's no-frills staging in this shotgun-style space heightens the script's claustrophobia. Alternately riveting and sidesplitting, it's a terrific 20 minutes of theater. Unfortunately it only makes Fife's uneven film noir send-up, Painted Woman, and cleverly titled, poorly orchestrated riff on high-toned melodrama, The Ivory Merchant, seem malnourished by comparison.