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HART show delivers tricks and treats

'Pieces of the HART' runs through Nov. 9 in Hillsboro

Hillsboro Artists’ Regional Theatre (HART) fills an essential niche in the west-side theater scene by regularly providing a venue where area playwrights can display their work.

Hard on the heels of HART’s third annual “Page to Stage” competition comes “Pieces of the HART,” a presentation of five original one-act plays by local authors from Portland to Forest Grove. To be completely honest, we had some trepidation about the whole thing, both as audience members and as reviewers — but it was a fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining evening.

Those of you who don’t plan to stay home handing out candy can still enjoy a lively Halloween populated by lethal hamsters, contract killers, thwarted death-by-rhinoplasty, and other surreal and (usually) humorous tales — but you must go quickly, as the program’s three-week run means there are only a few more chances to catch it. The line-up includes “General Mayhem,” written by Peter Stein and directed by Sam Stein; “The Third Rail,” written by Case Middleton and directed by William Crawford; “Recovery,” written by Patrick Brassell and directed by Ilana Watson; “Serial Date,” written by Milo T. Collins and directed by Brandon B. Weaver; and “American Cupcake,” written by Michael Johnson and directed by Dan Kroon. The shows provide a fun-filled night with lots of dark situations, plenty of laughs, unexpected twists and turns — who knew the good-looking guy in the brightly colored underwear would turn out to be straight? — and more than a few ponderable moments when the players and audience members can truly focus on the human condition.

Rarely has the phrase “community theater” been as appropriate as in “Pieces of the HART,” for the evening is truly a communal effort by an amazing group of multitalented multitaskers. Overall coordination of the program comes from Forest Grove’s Peter Stein, also one of the writers, and augmented by 18 actors filling 30 different roles. The overlap does not end there.

Director William Crawford also provided set design, and is one of the board operators. The other board operator, Milo T. Collins, is also an author. Stage manager and lighting designer Justin Campbell plays a role in “Recovery,” and director Sam Stein serves as prop master for the evening.

The seven actors who perform in multiple plays are not only quick-change artists, they are able to successfully transform their personalities to fit the demands of five very different scripts.

Special recognition is due to Crawford’s extremely flexible set design. The minimalist framework is cleverly and quickly adapted to the demands of the five shows, and very little time is lost on scene changes as the settings shift rapidly from home to train station, restaurant to therapist’s office, and more.

Mature themes and language pop up in several of the works, so the show is not appropriate for children — or narrow-minded adults. This stricture still leaves a substantial potential audience in the region, and we owe it to ourselves to celebrate and support the area’s vast pool of talent.

“Pieces of the HART” runs through Sunday, Nov. 9 at HART Theatre, 185 S.E. Washington St. in Hillsboro with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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