Jordan Jaffe’s comedy-drama Whirlwind hinges on a hot topic: environmental activism. It’s also descriptive of the relationships at its center. Bethany Goodbridge (Annapurna Sriram) handles issues of environment, health and safety at Arrow Energy, a San Francisco firm that builds wind farms. Her boss, Cooper (Johnny Wu), is an arrogant corporate type who likes to brag that he has his own jet. He also has more than a businesslike eye on her. Christian Conn plays the man who brings the whirlwind into their lives and ruffles their feathers—an apt description, since he is irate that one of the company’s isolated wind farms is killing birds at a terrible rate.
Outside Paducah: The Wars at Home, a trio of monologues about the postwar experiences of veterans, focuses on the insurmountable stresses on those who have been emotionally and psychologically scarred by war. Author J.A. Moad II, who has written and performs the plays, is himself a veteran. It is, perhaps, impossible for a civilian who has never endured combat to understand what it’s like, but civilian vs. military mindsets have underpinned plays from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus to David Hare’s Plenty (1978), whose heroine Susan Traherne, after fighting for the French Resistance, thrashes about in an unfulfilling civilian life that can never excite her as much as living on the knife’s edge.
In a Little Room, a delightful new black comedy by Pete McElligott, co-founder and co-artistic director of the Ten Bones Theatre Company, shows obvious influences of of Albee, Sartre and especially Beckett, but McElligott has his own voice. The play focuses on two primary characters, Manning (Jeb Kreager) and Charlie (Luis-Daniel Morales), who meet in a hospital waiting room on a very bad day. Initially, they try to conduct a whispered conversation to avoid waking another occupant, who is sleeping (David Triacca, who undertakes multiple roles), and then manage to wake him anyway with amusing ineptitude.
Villa, written and directed by Guillermo Calderón, opens on three women who are considering a scale model of the “villa,” a place in Chile where, in the 1970s under military dictator Augusto Pinochet (who ruled from 1973–90), atrocities were carried out, predominantly against women. One of the three, who are present-day Chileans, suggests making it into a Disneyland-like theme park of terror. There are other suggestions, too, but when they try to vote, each time a “spoiled ballot” appears that implies at any given time, one of them cannot be impartial—and the vote must be unanimous.