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Pear Pair: Meredith Hagedorn and Fred Sharkey star in one of Pear Avenue's new slices.

Slice and Dice

Pear Avenue cuts off eight 'Slices' of illusion and reality

By Marianne Messina

IN A NOVEL production called Pear Slices, Pear Avenue Theatre mounts eight 15-minute plays, moving quickly from one to another with an intermission in the middle. The eight mini-plot arcs create an enjoyable ride through contemporary bedrooms and kitchens, parties, barrooms and beaches—and a nebulous setting in "the stratosphere."

Centered loosely around the theme of illusion vs. reality, the plays' subject matter varies widely—a husband and wife re-creating their relationship in the afterlife (for better or worse), three generations dealing with too much stuff and more than one person discovering themselves dead. The ever-changing stories leave no time for slow beginnings or plodding scenes. On the other hand, if you miss a word you could miss the central metaphor (I missed the one about the donut hole); miss a line, and you might miss the denouement of the plot. Pear Slices demands the sharpest attention.

Some of the "slices," all new and all written, rehearsed and revised since September, are surprisingly compact. The Myth of Fingerprints by Ross Peter Nelson carries a suspenseful plot—with ambiguous hero—through a series of conversations between a former "Firm" agent (Fred Sharkey) and his superior (Kevin Kennedy). It pokes fun at itself as a spy thriller (two lineless comical scenes set to spy music) while interspersing monologues by Sharkey's character commenting on modern values. The slight obsessiveness of his commentary keeps us wondering—is he a madman or a sage? At one point Sharkey is telling us about artists and the use of negative space, then he is showing us how fliers taped to a mailbox ("Lost dog" for example) could be signs ("You shouldn't contact your handler for awhile") "that speak to those who know how to read them."

With only a couple of exceptions, the turns of events and changes of heart avoid feeling rushed or forced. And yet, behind the scenes it must require serious rushing about to keep the flow of plays running smoothly. Most theatrical productions take longer to go from one scene to another than Pear Slices takes between plays. The two directors (Jane Geesman and Ray Renati) use a back wall-sized projection screen to flash contextual scenery, which made the stage sets simple and portable. For Neva Marie's deliciously creepy A Day at the Beach, a slide depicting a long sandy beach trails off into the distance, requiring only a beach chair and a blanket to create the set onstage.

The plays are performed by an ensemble cast of three actresses and three actors, such that each performer plays three different (sometimes very different) roles over the course of the Slices. For an audience, if the actors are fluid enough, the reward in this technique is the chance to catch a glimpse of the artistry that goes into creating each role.

Look for Meredith Hagedorn as she transforms from concerned middle-aged daughter with the fashion sense of a librarian (sorry librarians; you know how you are) in The Pac Rat Gene to being a young psycho killer in beach wear (A Day at the Beach) in barely three minute's time.

If you go to Pear Slices expecting only light entertainment, it may take you by surprise; in this artful endeavor, the comical brushes elbows with the dark, the light brushes elbows with the dense. Go thoughtful, go ready for anything, and you're in for an ingenious evening of theatre.

Pear Slices, presented by Pear Avenue Theatre, plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through April 10 at 1220 Pear Ave., Unit K, Mountain View. Tickets are $10-$20. (650.254.1148)

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From the April 6-12, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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