Using the same beachfront setting, the two original one-acts that make up this late-night production, Late-Nights at Stages, also have essentially the same premise: the transformations that occur in the lives of the denizens of a beachfront house when a "stranger" stumbles into their midst.
Mitchel Faris' You Ever Look a Dolphin Right in the Eye, directed by Michael M. Miller, gives us Jon (Spider Madison) and Bruce (Steve Everett), the middle-aged owners of the world's second-largest surfwear company. While internationally successful, the men are wrestling with the responsibilities of running a mature company in the youth-oriented surfing industry.
The play is entertaining enough, especially when a young surfer (Austin Lawrence) appears and unknowingly produces an epiphany in Jon. But the play is predictable and almost naive, hindered by a political theme hinted at but never explored (there is a distracting reference to "President Gore" and NAFTA). But I still enjoyed sitting on the beach with the characters, and there's something to be said for that.
By contrast, William Mittler's Paradise is a fascinating gem. Directed by Mittler, the play re-imagines the fate of poet Hart Crane, who disappeared at sea in 1932. Here, Crane (Adam Clark) washes ashore at the feet of Herman (Robert Dean Nunez), his new bride (Tiina Wiles) and Herman's sister (Mia Chiaromonte), who are vacationing on a private island. Crane can't help but dissolve the façades these folks have built up: Herman is an upper-middle-class boob; Christine is an ex-showgirl masquerading as a nurse; and Chiaromonte's Ophelia is awkwardly confused about her inherent but untested sexuality. Crane's job is made all too easy by the presence of alcohol, a gun, Ravel's "Bolero" and his own acerbic wit, which Clark delivers with more than capable nuance and élan. In fact, the entire cast is terrific. This is a clever piece that could easily stand alone.
Late-Nights at Stages, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 10 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m. Through June 25. $5.