PENGUIN BLUES and JIMMY, Mary-Arrchie Theatre. These short one-acts depict desperate couples at odds with whatever problems the playwrights pick. Confession may be good for the soul, but it's essential for these plays, since it constitutes the only action. Savoring the oddity of these bizarre encounters, Michael Ludden provides staging that's as quirky as the writing.
The more substantial Penguin Blues, by Ethan Phillips, contrasts two recovering alcoholics in a rehab center. Both have a ton of anti-Catholic baggage to unpack. Gordon, who was "lowered a Catholic," has unhealed memories of monstrous nuns; Angelita, a delinquent nun, is a burned-out teacher angry at the church's misogyny. Forgiveness hangs in the air as they hug. Audra Budrys plays Angelita with a prim denial that eventually yields, and Frederick Husar delivers Gordon's deadpan put-downs with stand-up skill.
In A. Patrick Jr.'s brief, cryptic Jimmy, Husar plays a mincing rich man whose home is burgled by an ex-con dogged by bad luck. Both seek "oblivion to the past," then discover how much of that past they share. But the final surprise adds nothing. Arch Harmon's dignified burglar displays the right Dickensian flair in his speech, but Husar's grotesquely fussy Bancroft is a caricature in search of some satire. And they both smoke way too much. --Lawrence Bommer