The Grace Players under artistic director Natalija Nogulich use designated places to create three nights of three one-act plays for their "Acts of Grace II." Saturday night's locale is diners, not meaning the hip retro '50s burger joints, but the small-town, dingy dining spots that never make anyone's memorable-places-to-eat list.
Unfortunately, the same hit-or-miss odds facing travelers stopping at hole-in-the-wall restaurants also applies here at the Egyptian Arena Theatre. The two frolicking comedies that make up the first part of the bill serve up strong characterizations and reflections on friendships, but the evening fizzles with a heavily political and hardly believable one-act at the end.
In Jason Milligan's amusing "Waiting for Ringo," the monotony of playing unpaid at county fairs and rest homes has put this ersatz Fab Four on the road to splitsville. Disillusioned John (Zane Stanley) wants out of the band while the ever-optimistic Paul (Brant Cotton) argues that they are "the keepers of a legacy" and poised to become the "preeminent Beatles tribute band."
"Girl Shoes" refers to those 6-inch stiletto-heeled numbers that the loose Regina (Tracy Effinger) advises her best friend, tennis-shoe-wearing "dateless wonder" Donna (Alexa Hunter), to buy. When a former television star decides to visit this diner, the girls turn catty and dark facets of their friendship are revealed in this somewhat predictable piece by Mary Hanes. Director Tom Parks fleshes out the characters in both pieces and keeps the action tight.
This is not the case with "George's Diner," written and directed by Joshua Ravetch, in which the tone shifts uneasily and the action is bogged down by too many meaningful pauses. This Arizona diner is a refuge for lost souls who are mothered by the gruff George (Kathleen Walker). Ravetch's thesis is that the military is bad and is harder to leave than the Mafia. That may be, but a more convincing argument is needed.
"Acts of Grace II: Diners," Grace Players at Egyptian Arena, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 27. $10. (888) 566-8499. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.