Omnibus collections of work — short stories, movies, or plays — can be a mixed bag. Quickies, however, presents four one-acts of contemporary queer drama with local talent at the Art House in Provincetown through Sept. 21 and maintains a high level of artistry throughout.
It’s a production of Provincetown Dramatic Arts, headed by Margaret Van Sant, in collaboration with the Art House’s Mark Cortale, and it arrives after a sold-out preview at Velvet in the spring and a trip abroad to the 2022 International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in May, where it was an official selection and award finalist.
The four plays are by local authors: “Madame Executrix” is by Doug Asher-Best, a retired letter carrier who lives in Truro with his husband, Paul, a former selectman; “Look What You Made Me Do” is written and directed by Lynda Sturner, a Broadway actor and writer who lives in Truro and has been a fixture in local productions for decades; “The Black Eye” is written and directed by playwright Jim Dalglish, a former managing director of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and marketing director of the Provincetown Theater, who lives in Quincy with his husband, Rob Phelps, the editor-in-chief of Boston Spirit and former arts editor of the Provincetown Banner; and, finally, “Pulse” is written and directed by Van Sant, an Eastham resident who directed Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie pre-Covid at the Wharf House in Provincetown.
“Madame Executrix” has an Our Town–like afterlife premise sans the meta-narration: Gordon (Joe MacDougall) joins his lover, Ricky (Tommy Walsh), in heaven only to watch his surviving sister, Natalie (Sara Bleything), distribute their possessions in ways that counter the instructions in his will. Gordon has a hard time relinquishing control, and his awkward adjustment to the afterlife is handled charmingly by Asher-Best. Van Sant, who directed “Madame Executrix” (the only part of Quickies not directed by its author), delivers gentle and sweet performances from MacDougall, Walsh, and Bleything, who traverse the same space without direct communication between heavenly and Earthly creatures.
“Look What You Made Me Do” follows, supplying a dollop of lesbian sturm und drang. Sara Bleything and Samantha McMahon are, respectively, Grace and Brenda, married Manhattan yuppies whose passionately dysfunctional relationship is coming undone in the pandemic due to forced proximity. Sturner lets the emotional daggers fly, but her insight into the hurt inflicted is keen, and Bleything and McMahon, both Cape-based actors, are uncomfortably persuasive.
Next up is “The Black Eye” by Dalglish, a standout in the program and the award nominee in Dublin for best play and best actor (Joe MacDougall). MacDougall, an experienced New York and Cape Cod–based actor who triumphed in Jerker in August at the Provincetown Theater, narrates the piece, and his monologues are poetic and sharp — they recall the erotic fiction of John Rechy. He plays a middle-aged leather queen who’s driving home from a gay bar when he passes a couple of drunk straight punks and offers them a ride home. One of the younger men is so drunk he throws up and passes out and is not physically portrayed onstage; the other, played by Tommy Walsh (a young Cape Cod actor who was part of the Love! Valour! Compassion! ensemble at the Provincetown Theater in 2018), engages with the older queen and displays some ambivalent — and fraught — sexual curiosity. The restrained tension between Walsh and MacDougall is palpable, and both are riveting and believable in their roles. Dalglish, who has said the play is based on an incident he experienced in Quincy, provides a curiously satisfying (yet unsatisfying) resolution.
Van Sant’s “Pulse” wraps up the Quickies quartet. It’s a meditation on the grieving that followed the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 queer patrons were shot to death and 53 were wounded. All four actors have parts: McMahon plays a traumatized survivor whose brother was killed; Walsh, a friend and fellow survivor; Bleything and MacDougall, her supportive parents. Activism is their only recourse, if only a partial salve.
Four short plays that make a big impression: that’s Quickies. There’s only one week left — catch it while you can.
Making a Scene
The event: Quickies, four short LGBTQ plays from Provincetown
The time: Tuesday, Sept. 20 and Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
The place: The Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown
The cost: $25 (general seating) $35 (V.I.P.) at provincetownarthouse.com