Short plays zoom from laughs to familiarity

Harold DuckettArts 865, Feature, West Knox

There’s a moment in Staci Swedeen’s short, one-act play “The Pennysaver,” part of Flying Anvil Theatre’s one-act play festival “8×10,” which closes this Sunday, that has flashed across the minds of many parents in the grocery store check-out line when the 2-year-old is throwing a raging tantrum in the bottom of the cart.

Just pay the cashier, lift your bags of groceries out of the cart and walk calmly out. Let the cashier and next person in line figure out what to do with the screaming little banshee.

In “Pennysaver,” the scenario is a bit different. But that flash of opportunity to get rid of a problem child turns into reality. Stephanie (Angela Grant) and her husband Tom (David Steele) are moving, and they hope to sell their bed to Emily (Crystal-Marie Alberson) and John (Michael Marks.)

After much discussion between Emily and John as to the pros and cons of taking the bed, probably staged as bargaining leverage, they announce they will buy it, on the condition that the whiny little girl, Katy (Steve Louis), is part of the deal.

Without a second thought Stephanie grabs the money. But their pet, Puss-Cat (Dennis Hart), is moving with them.

There are a lot of moments of familiarity in the eight one-act plays performed by the cast of 10 actors playing 26 characters. Most of them are designed for laughs. But many of them also have the ring of truth.

In two pieces by playwright and actor Margy Ragsdale, “Statistical Reasoning” and “A Gun on the Table,” partly logical, partly irrational, circular discussions take place between husband and wife James (David Snow) and Millicent (Windie Wilson) that are familiar to most couples.

Neither of them quite understands the other. But both are determined to get their point across.

In Staci Swedeen’s “Rattlesnake Canyon,” actor Margy Ragsdale’s Karen has to make the difficult decision to leave her hiking companion, Brenda (Lisa Silverman), to go find help. Brenda has too many blisters to walk any farther. That moment of abandonment strikes a chord.

Ron Burch’s “The Original Story of Lewis Hackett” involves every employee’s experience of trying to figure out if their co-workers are real people or bodies possessed by creatures from outer space.

The show’s three directors, Carrie Booher-Thompson, Terry Copeland Pfeiffer and Keri McClain, get as much character development out of their cast of 10 actors as one could hope for such short formats.

Set designers John Ferguson and Dennis Hart created clever furniture components drawn with black markers on white foam core board. When not in use they are velcroed to the back wall of the stage. Stick them to the front or back of black cubes on stage and they form chairs, tables and a bed.

It’s a creative devise that gives a sense of continuity to these diverse little gems.

8×10 runs through Aug. 19. Tickets are available online at, or by calling 865-357-1309.

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