Pleiades Rising, at Mary-Arrchie Theatre.
The only things this mismatched trio of theatrical pieces have in common are oblique references to the titular star cluster and the fact that none of them works particularly well. Best of the bunch is Tim Joyce's Six Great Conversations, a wistful reminiscence of the author's late father. More a long monologue interrupted by brief scenes, Joyce's touching play contains a number of moments that resonate with honesty.
But regrettably the father and son never come fully to life, because Joyce never tells us much more than that he really loved his dad, who was strong and kind but difficult to know. The conversations--which reveal a child's curiosity about death and religion--are all so short they feel somewhat generic. As lovingly but tenuously performed by the affable Mark Vanasse and Hans Summers, Six Great Conversations feels more like a staged reading than a fully produced play. Like the script, it's respectful but distant and at times dull.
Joyce's play is followed by some amusing but tentatively delivered poetry by Chris Hyatt, who wouldn't have been able to drown out the finger snapping at a Green Mill slam. Closing the evening is a no-holds-barred production of Lanford Wilson's incest tragedy Home Free! This work of baseball-bat subtlety by the normally reliable Wilson, about a pathetically childish brother and sister, seems as out of place with the two previous pieces as a Whoopee Cushion in shul. Tom Tenney's sledgehammer direction of Stephen Rader (grating) and Kristen Hornlien (better) produces a show that, as the immortal Harold Washington said of Dorothy Tillman, is "too loud, boisterous, braggadocio, and all that."