Random acts

Front-row reviews

What: The Manor Daze

Where: Fred’s Speakeasy

When: Wednesday, Jan. 21

If you’ve ever toiled at a low-end multiplex, much of The Manor Daze won’t seem that far-fetched.

Incompetent co-workers, angry managers and after-hours liaisons behind the popcorn-warming machine — that pretty much describes my own time behind the counter of a failing movie theater.

And it’s this exact feeling that The Heavy Duty Crew‘s live-action situation-comedy captures so well.

The setup for The Manor Daze is simple, an elegant formula that even Ray Romano couldn’t ruin: The Manor Twin Theater is a small, dilapidated movie house being run into the ground by four barely functioning rejects, each with his or her own issues. There’s the self-destructive, alcoholic manager Mr. Rob (Thomas M. Calloway). There’s daydreaming, neo-granola space-cadet Sunshine (Elizabeth Taylor). There’s concessions-seller Sara (Jessamine Stone), the more-or-less straight person of the bunch.

And then there’s Jeremy.

Every modern sitcom needs that one “wacky” character, the naive outsider — the Kramer, the Mork, the Alf — who always pushes things just a little too far, and ultimately makes everything worse for everyone else. Hopefully, he also makes it much funnier for all of us watching.

So that’s Jeremy, defined and mastered by the show’s writer, Jeremy Burgess.

Jeremy is the wacky projectionist with a heart of gold … and a talking right hand that’s painted like a dog. (Sure, it’s a goofy gimmick, but it works.) His canine “companion” gives him advice, speaks with an upper-crust British accent and — most importantly — provides a little low-brow physical humor for the crowd.

This particular installment of The Manor Daze, with its plot about rats and plumbers and the hazards of dating co-workers, was truly fun — I’d much rather watch another episode than almost anything offered by the major networks.

Even better, there are no commercials.

New episodes of The Manor Daze are presented every Wednesday at Fred’s Speakeasy (122 College St.) at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, e-mail The Heavy Duty Players at Manordaze@mail.com.

What: Seven Deadly Dwarves

Where: Be Be Theatre

When: Saturday, Jan. 24

The thing I’ve always both loved and hated about Plaeides Productions is that they aren’t really trying to do anything but entertain themselves.

They put on strange plays with odd plots, let awful actors share the stage with excellent ones, and often fail to make any of it work. For all that, Plaeides has never struck me as the sort of theater company that really cares what a reviewer — or even an audience member, for that matter — thinks about them.

As a result, their shows are almost always sold out.

That reckless spirit is alive and well in their current production, Seven Deadly Dwarves, one of the most explicit plays Asheville has seen in a while. Mixing the seven deadly sins (sloth, lust, avarice and the lot) with the personality traits that serve as names for Snow White’s seven dwarves (sleepy, grumpy, dopey, etc.) is hardly a bad idea for a series of one-acts.

Some fairly twisted and interesting sketches result — but minus the shock value, a lot of the plots wouldn’t exactly leap off the page.

Granted, some of it is quite vile — though it’s nothing worse than you’d see in a mid-’70s John Waters film. Still, for a typical Asheville crowd, a lot of the material might seem a little repellent — like the abortion-clinic ending of the sketch “Doc Gets It in the End” (mixing dwarf Doc with sin wrath).

Some of the acting is excellent (like Jay Becknell’s turns as a cruel, astoundingly fat man; an opera fan; and a Princess Di-obsessed pimp), and some of it is quite bad (imagine the worst acting you can … go ahead … no, trust me, it’s still worse than that).

The far-too-long sales-pitch punch line of “Careful Now” was nevertheless moderately funny. Other “stories” were hilariously vile, like “The Most Foul Tragedy of Nico and Narcotic” (a down-and-dirty, crack-addicts-and-pimps-and-ho’s retelling of the myth of Echo and Narcissus through the setup of Dopey and vanity).

In summary, Seven Deadly Dwarves is another wonderful, horrible stage show from Plaeides Productions. And I doubt they’d want it any other way.

Plaeides Productions’ performance of Seven Deadly Dwarves will be presented at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 7 at Be Be Theatre (20 Commerce St.). For reservations and ticket information, call 275-8606.

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