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Summer treat 

Unfortunately, InterPlay, Shipping Dock Theatre's annual festival of new plays, can schedule only three performances each during two summer weekends, so you have only this coming weekend to see the two plays that opened last week. I suspect, though, that Craig Pospisil's delectable Months on End will show up again.

            In 1995, InterPlay introduced Pospisil's Somewhere In Between, a clever romantic comedy that followed a 29-year-old man's adventures in New York City, between romances, between jobs, even -- stuck in an elevator -- between floors.

            Months on End is a richer, more assured work. It progresses from what seem to be clever, self-contained skits to a mosaic view of a connected group, seen month-by-month throughout a single year.

            First, at a New Year's Eve party, Elaine is complaining about having had a bad year, and we learn that the man to whom she's speaking is her host. (He is not complaining about his wife's heading for the bedroom with Elaine's date.) Later, when Elaine tells Phoebe about being in love with a married man, we realize that she is talking about that same former host, Walter. And so we come to know and care about these people and see how many things change in their lives during these few "months on end."

            Joe Tinkleman has directed the staged reading so skillfully, and his actors --- some veterans, but several inexperienced --- move and play so comfortably in their roles that the scripts they carry seem unnecessary formalities. The scenes move from bachelors arguing at the beach over what they find sexy about women to deeper, but no less funny, reflections on difficulties between still childish married couples, and concerns of their indulgent parents, and even a touching eulogy for a friend who has died of AIDS. Mostly, though, these "months" bring us revelations that evoke affectionate laughter.

            One set piece is a clear example. With delicious timing, Maureen Mines is first physically hilarious as her character, Heidi, drops the note cards for her stumbling graduation valedictory, then picks them up out of order and reads hopeless non sequiturs. Heidi gives up in despair, discards her notes, and blurts out unhappily that she didn't even want to go to this school. Then, in a fit of morose honesty, she virtually hiccoughs out "You took all the good drugs ... And all the good sex ... And made the good money ... And all you left for us was the bill!" We understand this depressed girl's nervous frustration, but when she ends abruptly with condensed clichés about being grateful to parents and teachers and now facing the future, the audience collapses in laughter.

            Adam Kraar's The Princess of President Street also reflects much good work by its cast and is another contemporary mixture of comic perspective and insightful reflections on family relationships. I suspect, though, that Kevin Sean McCann's well-paced direction invents more comic business than the script describes. It plays fairly engrossingly until the title character begins to noisily shift directions without letting up, like a caged animal crashing into one wall after another more annoyingly than pathetically.

            This one is all about an old house on President Street in New York City, control of which has been inherited by a Jewish American Princess named Deborah, who is obsessed with getting Historical Landmark status for it. Her grandmother used the house to shelter Holocaust refugees. Her father is more concerned with selling it and keeping her from falling off its roof as her crazy mother did. (Mother is still alive, now comatose in a hospital.)

            Deborah's two sisters are more concerned with their sexuality, burgeoning and overripe, respectively. Her boyfriend just wants to marry her and take her away from all this. Her grandmother's ghost visits and gives advice. And an Italian workman shares her sense of history and, anyway, gets her hot.

            The details everyone discusses introduce some flavorful ethnic matter, but the bland dialogue itself would need members of the Yiddish Theatre to give it any such feeling. And this engaging cast is entirely goyish anyway. For example, Tim Goodwin makes Deborah's Jewish boyfriend Steve entirely likable; but Steve is going to Israel, and this Steve appears to be moving there to head the Tel Aviv chapter of the Billy Graham Crusade. Meg Divine plays Deborah with enough charm to defuse any irritation from the character's insistent neuroses. But I think this play still needs work on focus and purpose.

Months on End by Craig Pospisil, directed by Joe Tinkleman, plays Saturday at 8 p.m. and The Princess of President Street by Adam Kraar, directed by Kevin Sean McCann, plays Friday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Shipping Dock Theatre, 151 St. Paul Street. www.shippingdocktheatre.org (585) 232-2250.

Theater note:

Next at Shipping Dock is a revival of the popular comedy show, Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney's The Kathy and Mo Show, starting August 9. (585) 232-2250.

            Also next week, Canada's Stratford Festival will open two additional productions. Starting August 6, two plays receive their world premieres: Bereav'd of Light, a drama by Ian Ross about an Ojibway warrior and an escaped slave from the American South in eighteenth century Canada, and Damiano Pietropaolo's adaptation of The Fellini Radio Plays, a specially commissioned comedy from rediscovered pieces by Federico Fellini.

            Also August 6, Brian Bedford will open 12 special performances of his one-man Shakespeare show, The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet. Theater-lovers who saw this great actor perform this work at SUNY Geneseo and Nazareth College can tell you what an extraordinary, brilliant, ennobling experience it is. Info: www.stratfordfestival.ca 1.800.567.1600.

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