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Buffalo Quickies

Michael Starzynski and Tyler Brown

The Buffalo Quickies is Alleyway Theatre’s annual celebration of one-act plays. Now in its 23rd year, the event provides a great opportunity for writers and actors alike to strut their stuff in a playful environment.

Once again, Joyce Stilson directs the evening, and once again, the emphasis is on comedy with seven quick sketches, organized into two swift acts.

The evening begins with a classic comedy scenario, a couple from hell in marriage counseling. “Therapy,” by George J. Bryjak, features Wilbur and Phonecia, played by Darryl Hart and Patty Hannel, who have come to Dr. Kellogg, played by Jacquie Cherry, for therapy. It doesn’t take long to see where this situation is going, as the hateful pair seems to make sport of breaking down their therapist. As if often the case with quick scenes, many of the “quickies” lead up to surprise reversal at the end. This switch of direction is the saving grace of Bryjak’s play.

Next up are two plays by Lockport-based playwright Mark C. Lloyd. In “I’m Not Sure,” Ms. Cherry and Tyler Brown play Woman and Man, who engage in an absurdist conversation. This is followed by “Roses are Red,” featuring a poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, which provides an occasion for a quarreling husband and wife played by Hannel and Mike Starzynski to act out their aggressions. In both sketches, Lloyd toys with words to explore incompatibility. In the former, words misfire to comic effect; in the latter, words land with equal comedy but laser-sharp precision.

The theme of comic word play continues with “Workin’ on the Railroad,” by Pasadena-based writer Mark Harvey Levine. In this play, Levine uses the lyrics to the familiar American song to advance a comical scene in a rustic 19th-century Western grub house. The play makes a charming first half closer.

When we return from intermission, we are greeted by “Fruit Loops,” a comic play with a serious undercurrent by Donna Hoke, the Western New York representative of the Dramatists Guild. Her play, Seeds, won the Artie Award for New Play last year. In “Fruit Loops,” a parent meets with her child’s condescending teacher, a woman whose own self-worth is peculiarly wrapped up in the achievement of her grade school pupils.

In Matt Boyles’s play, “Brotherhood of the Whirlpool Box,” Tyler Brown plays an abrasive graduate student interviewing a man whose home is cardboard box. The piece turns out to be a powerhouse role for Mike Starzynski as the homeless man, and the play demonstrates that it is possible to pack a great deal into a small scene.

Finally, the evening concludes with David Muschell’s “Scamming,” in which a woman involved in an accident discovers the whole event is an elaborate scam involving everyone from the victim, to the witness, to the paramedic. She appeals to the investigating officer to believe her, to no avail. The setup is intriguing and would seem to hold more potential for development, as the entire population of a street conspires to manipulate this woman’s reality in order to exploit her, while simultaneously revealing to her that she is the true victim of the situation.

The actors in this year’s Quickies all have opportunities to flaunt their talent and this year’s crew is particularly strong. The event is a pleasurable opportunity to see some rising talents.