As much as I hate to spend an entire review listing the content of a show, it befits the nature of An Improbable Peck of Plays. That's because the show is actually seven little plays, each no longer than 15 minutes. It's a co-production of the Northwest Playwrights Alliance, Prodigal Sun Productions (back from a yearlong hiatus) and Theater Artists Olympia. Two of its playwrights, Dan Erickson and Bryan Willis, are from the South Sound. If you're looking for polish or production value here, don't. The Midnight Sun is essentially a garage with chairs in it. Instead, the focus is almost entirely on the writing. The acting and directing rosters vary from reliable veterans (Samantha Camp, Brian Jansen, Elizabeth Lord) to shades of green.
In Playground Confidential by Bryan Hawthorne, Rex the grade-school gumshoe noses around an illicit candy ring. Dennis Worrell plays the prepubescent hawkshaw in classic granite-jawed style. Ken Luce riffs on Peter Lorre, and Pamela Arndt is a shady swinger who may or may not be playing both sides of the foursquare court. Scenes are established using drawings on craft paper. It's funnier than it sounds, especially for fans of film noir or the movie Brick (which applied a similar premise to high school).
In Erickson's New Life in a Lifeless World, a dying man (Luce) can afford to have three pivotal but poorly zipped memories uploaded to a near-future immortality in the Cloud. Doctors (Worrell, Arndt, and Jeff Hirschberg) act out the bowdlerized adaptations. It's a thoughtful script obviated by the similar (and superior) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It plays a bit flat here.
Evan Sesek's A Thousand Words introduces a gravedigger (Jansen) to a young man (Robert Bristol) who knows too much about war. The big reveal lands where it should. The Shem of Gregory Hischak's Poor Shem meets his Maker in a harried office; his coworkers' staccato dialogue plays like the minimalist compositions of Philip Glass. I liked it a lot, and I think it's perceptive enough to qualify as satire. After a brief intermission, Amy Tofte's The Course We Set finds three generations of women advising and comforting each other through labyrinths of love.
In Evolution of Chaos, Willis reveals the inner lives of four women grasping for peaceful satori in a yoga class. Amusingly, Lord becomes fixated on the woman who "stole her space." Camp's direction is fitted to the material, as it was on Playground Confidential. Vowels, by Stephan Austen II, is a not-too-deep comic sketch starring Brooklynites A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y (Bristol). Final-Friday attendees get a bonus play, Willis's Beyond the Sea.
I've seen a lot of these evenings of playlets over the years, and they're usually avoidable. This one came as a welcome surprise. Its skillful writing carries the day.
[Midnight Sun Performance Space, An Improbable Peck of Plays, $13, 8 p.m. Thurs. - Sun. through Oct. 27, 113 N. Columbia St., Olympia, 360.250.2721]