THE IVES OF MARCH & POETRY THEATRE, Smoke and Mirror Productions, at the Loop Theater. This evening of two one-acts by David Ives proves he's the best writer Sid Caesar never had. Quasi-erudite, with a semi-borscht belt sensibility and love for historical anachronism, Babel's in Arms features two downtrodden Babylonian slaves feverishly trying to outwit the corporate dragon lady overseeing construction of the infamous towering boondoggle. Edd Fairman and Mychal Utecht are in nearly perfect sync as the harebrained duo--trading quips and meditations, they begin to seem a Mesopotamian vaudeville version of Beckett's Estragon and Vladimir.
In Degas C'est Moi, an unemployed man imagines what life would be like as the French painter. The piece is slight, but E. Vincent Teninty brings a sweet bemusement to the character, and the rest of the ensemble delivers a dizzying array of walk-on performances. Director Heidi Peterson finds the right balance between frenzied and thoughtful in both one-acts, and Eric Appleton's lighting creates lovely pictures.
Each night the Ives pieces are paired with a different ensemble performance by Poetry Theatre, directed by Nick Jones. On the night I attended, Maggie Rubin's "Wanderlust" filled out the hour-long bill. Well-written but rather smug, this meditation on the transformative powers of travel uses a handful of props and set pieces in a simple but eloquent staging.