Madison's Encore Studio for the Performing Arts is one of the few professional theater companies in America for the disabled. Acts to Grind, the troupe's collection of original one-act plays (running through Nov. 18 at the Bartell Theatre), explores issues that are universal and also ones specific to the disabled.
In "Idiot's Box," two couch potatoes (Robin Parks and Corin Reilly) flip through the channels catching snippets of shows like "I Love Lucy" and "Pimp My Ride" and comment on what they've seen. "Karma" has the judgmental Eloise (played with aplomb by Christie Stadele) manning the volunteer phone banks during the Jerry Lewis telethon. She drives her fellow volunteers so crazy that they start plotting against her. Karma intervenes to interesting effect.
"Idiot's Box" and "Karma" could use some tightening, but the final two plays are well crafted. They offer interesting glimpses into the lives of the disabled and those who care for them, mock them, ignore them and love them.
In "Extra Cheese," a new caregiver (Moritz Burnard) arrives at the home of two brothers, Vince (charismatic Randy Sands) and Jeffrey (the sweet Max Woodson). Their bizarre parents (Marcy Weiland and Jake Jacobson, having fun in their roles) and younger sister (Heather Schey) arrive to celebrate Jeffrey's birthday. Havoc and humor ensue.
"Disposable Friends" is set in a bar where Cassie (Connie Alsum, perfectly capturing her character's snotty self-absorption) meets up with her friends Mandy (Dawn Cieszynski) and Toni (Jennifer Kopp). Interesting dynamics among the friends and the other bar patrons make this the show's most provocative piece.