By John Lyle Belden
About the best way to describe the short plays of Mark Harvey Levine is like The Twilight Zone with a funny bone. To present the collection titled “Didn’t See That Coming,” Southbank Theatre Company has as director Anthony Nathan, who has acted and staged quite a few offbeat shows in recent years.
In these eight quick comedies, united by a theme of “Surprise” (also the title of one of the plays), we also get a talented sextet of Angela Dill, Paul Hansen, Terra McFarland, Alex Oberheide, Ryan Powell, and Michelle Wafford, in various roles.
The plots are a combination of Levine classics and new works. Dill and Hansen wake up to find their life is “Scripted.” Powell is a psychic of limited range but still able to sense a breakup with Wafford in “Surprise.” McFarland gets an unusual birthday present: Oberheide’s character in “The Rental.” In the most complex and unusual piece, Powell finds himself in “Plato’s Cave” with Hansen and Wafford. Oberheide and McFarland are a couple needing to let go of childish things in “Defiant Man,” featuring Hansen and Powell in their own Toy Story. Wafford can never get away from her parents, even when she’s away from her parents, in “The Folks,” with Oberheide as her date. Powell has his own night out planned but needs a sober appraisal from McFarland in “The Kiss.” Finally, an ongoing apocalypse is no excuse for letting the accounting department go slack, so Dill is sizing up Hansen in “The Interview.”
I’ve seen practically everyone here get their silly on in the past, so was not surprised to see them put their all into this, delivering absurdities with the appropriate confusion, bewilderment or calm acceptance each moment requires.
Nifty set design by Aric C. Harris gives us a versatile turntable stage, powered in part by stage manager Aaron Henze. As much of the humor is derived from close relationships, we recognize Lola Lovacious for her intimacy direction.
What you should see coming is an exceptional collection of hilarious and clever scenes. Performances are Thursday through Sunday at the Fonseca Theatre, 2508 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis. Get tickets and info at southbanktheatre.org.