The Lanford Wilson one-acts playing at Orange Coast College are billed as comedies, but don't be misled. There is some humor here, but it is rooted in dark and disturbing subject matter. Perhaps one man's comedy is another man's nightmare.
"Ludlow Fair" and "Home Free" have a nightmarish, suffocating quality that is nicely articulated in this student-directed production.
The action in both plays takes place in one small room. The black-box space of the campus Studio Theatre lends an appropriate aura of confinement.
The pace in both plays is unhurried and deliberate, leaving the audience to sort fact from fantasy as the stories take shape. But that is not always an easy task. The line between reality and illusion can be maddeningly elusive, particularly in "Ludlow Fair." A seemingly casual relationship between roommates sharing an apartment gradually takes on darker overtones, but it leaves a trail of unanswered questions. Despite thoughtful performances by Amy Von Freymann and Dia Shepardson and direction by Steven Shults, the story never comes into sharp focus.
"Home Free," directed by Kara E. Greene, is stronger. Fear and love coexist in a claustrophobic apartment, where a brother and sister live out a childlike fantasy as husband and wife. Affecting portrayals by Rose Farquhar and Eric Dean Scott keep raising the emotional stakes as the play progresses to its shattering resolution.