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Talent, toil of ‘Random Acts’ crew shouldn’t be secret

“Random Acts” is an evening of three funny playlets at the Las Vegas Little Theatre Studio this weekend. More interesting, though, is the incompetence of its producer.

Good things first.

Gruff playwright David Mamet offers us a sweet, comic turn in his “Duck Variations.” It’s nothing but two elderly men (Michael Close and Sandy Stein) on a bench analyzing heredity, environment and ducks.

Under Barry Allen’s direction, the likable eccentrics get into passionate arguments about what seem like nothing. Yet, you can see the affection they have for each other. Close is particularly humorous as a man speaking through a voice box. He makes his whole body one robotic machine, as if his tracheotomy was merely the result of strident, hole-in-the-wall thinking.

Director Timothy Burris brings out a surprising dose of humanity in Sean Critchfield’s original script, “Headlights,” about two young men (Steve: Matthew Howard; Jeff: Brendyn Bell) driving carelessly while crudely discussing women. Howard’s Steve seems the more grounded of the two, until Bell’s Jeff infects him with his silliness. The two bounce off each other well; we believe in their antagonistic but grounded friendship. Bell adds a dimension to his role in that he allows you to see his character’s delight in being so politically incorrect.

Critchfield’s script excels at giving us the moment-to-moment feel of this relationship, though I could have done without the morality lesson at the end.

Bringing up the rear is Jason Nino’s original “The Time Trail,” a small-scaled amusing bit of nonsense (directed with humor by Stefanie McCue) about time travel. Favorite part: the simple special effects. They proved tiny budgets can result in creative wonders.

OK, now the bad stuff.

The production, like several others recently, was produced by RagTag Productions chief Andrew Wright, and he seems to want to keep the shows secret. Someone associated with the one-acts contacted me to say, “We’ve got a show this weekend and no one seems to know about it.”

I called Wright, and he told me the show was not worth reviewing; it was just a group of mostly new actors who had never been on a stage before. I went anyway (with no intention of reviewing) and was surprised to find on display the talents of many of our most experienced performers, directors and writers. Did Wright read their résumés?

Wright called the whole incident “a misunderstanding,” but there was no misunderstanding. He belittled his crew for reasons I can’t figure out and tried to prevent them from getting deserved public recognition. As if to highlight his incompetence, he asked me for feedback on a special makeup effect being used for the first time opening night. Memo from Theater 101 Class: Leave experiments to rehearsals.

For more reasons than I can cover here, Wright needs to do an apprenticeship and learn before he takes charge. Having money is not the sole secret to being a successful producer.

For show information, visit lvlt.org.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@ aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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