Four couples-gay, lesbian, biracial and white hetero-share separate tables in a restaurant. Each wants to start a family. Their overlapping dinner conversations soon turn to artificial insemination, adoption, and tubal ligation.
Thus begins "The Next Table," one of five one-act plays that comprise "Love Knots (a love-fest of short plays)" by playwright Philip Paradis, premiering at the 9th annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival, which runs May 29-June 9. The two dramas and three comedies explore various forms of love-romantic, neighborly and familial-each with unexpected twists that offer humorous and poignant insights into complicated, relationships.
"People are different, but we're all struggling with the same issues and we need each other's indulgence," Paradis said. "These plays are about what love makes us do; how it can tie us up, and untie us."
Individually, the plays of "Love Knots" can stand alone, Paradis said, but they produce some interesting cumulative effectswhen performed consecutively. Each plot is unique, but shares a common thematic thread with the others.
In "Whistle Stop Romance," a jilted fiancée reunites with the man who dumped her to pursue a career. In "Holey Swiss Duet," an argument over Swiss cheese leads to a deepened friendship between a deli owner and his cranky customer. "Sunny Side Up," described as geriatric speed-dating, features two senior citizens who speak for the first time, after silently passing each other on daily walks. In "Happy Family at Lui's Golden Dragon," newlyweds share their first Thanksgiving together, with less-than-romantic results. Each play runs 10-15 minutes.
"The so-called 'ten-minute play' has become recognized as a legitimate form in recent years, as more playwrights are writing shorter pieces," Paradis said. "The shorts can serve as an entrée to theatre for non-theatergoers. With 'Love Knots,' you get to see five entertaining short plays in less than 90 minutes. It is like a festival within a festival."
Paradis, a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, was a semifinalist in the Kentucky Theatre Association's 2011 New Play Competition, for his play "Soldiers' Christmas." "Sunny Side Up," which is part of "Love Knots," was produced at the North Park Playwright Festival in San Diego, California in 2011. His "Powder Puff Heist" has been selected for next month's Salve Regina University New Play Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. His play "Footprints of the Polar Bear" won the Cincinnati Directors Competition in 2008. A Connecticut native, Paradis has taught English and creative writing at Oklahoma State University, Iowa State University, Western Carolina University and Northern Kentucky University. He currently lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
"Love Knots" is directed by Bob Allen. It is presented by Essex Theatre Arts Studio in Cincinnati, and features 15 actors, including Cincinnati theatre mainstays Tom Manning, Anne Wrider, Mindy Heithaus and Paul Eisenman. "Love Knots" will run June 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8 at the venerable Emery Theatre, 112 Walnut St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.
The 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival is a production of Know Theatre, one of Cincinnati's leading independent professional theatres. The festival, which runs May 29-June 9, features cutting-edge performances in theatre, dance, music, poetry and visual art.
Tickets are $12, with additional options available, depending on package. For information or tickets, visit www.cincyfringe.com or call 513.300.KNOW (5669).