When a chair is a springboard

Appropriation, wordplay, riffs on news headlines, improv skits, and a grab bag of absurdist tropes get thrown in a hat to very uneven ends in Curious Theatre Branch’s set of four half-hour plays responding to Caryl Churchill’s This Is a Chair.

This Is Not a ChurchillThrough 2/25: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Facility Theatre, 1138 N. California, facilitytheatre.org, $15 or pay what you can

In Beau O’Reilly’s The Umbrella Disguise,several odd characters emerge from behind the titular object and recite inchoate monologues and dialogues. If there’s a larger point, it was lost on this viewer other than to note the gratitude as each exited the stage. In Jayita Bhattacharya and Ira S. Murfin’s (Not) What We Talk About When We Talk about Love,a different set of characters sketch out scenes riffing on titles of noted short stories by Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and others. It’s compelling and often reminded me of those writers, though not of Churchill in particular. Chris Bower’s How to Fix Your Fatigue (Do This Every Day) employs a more complex overlapping structure, with recurring characters returning to the stage multiple times. The most memorable are two androids who repeatedly quiz one another about what they see when they look up at the moon. Chris Zdenek’s This Is Not a Play by Caryl Churchill Titled, “This Is a Chair” is a succession of desperately unfunny improv-style skits that each fall well short of the laughs and/or resonance they’re reaching for.

Can’t say what any of these have to do with Churchill aside from using the title of her play as a springboard for whatever the writers would’ve written anyway.

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