Review: Two virtual one-acts prove charming pair

PM&L (Palette, Masque and Lyre) Theatre is smart. While they await the in-person opening of their new season, they’re streaming two public domain, one-act plays: “Sweet and Twenty” and “Yesterday.”

Both one-acts were directed by Adam Armstrong; the classic 20th century plays were recorded live in Antioch, and edited for a virtual performance. Armstrong both cast and paced well, and each production is delightful. Moreover, cameraman Keith Stateler and cinematographer Wes Mrowka have provided clear, visual productions. Samantha Pinneo has kept costumes basic and simple – mere suggestions of the characters as needed.

“Sweet and Twenty” by Chicago author and literary critic Floyd Dell is the first production, and it’s just plain silly. The title, also a reference to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” is a term of endearment. A man (Josh Armstrong) and a woman (April Noel) meet at the estate of the late Mr. Boggley; they are seated on a bench in the estate’s cherry orchard. Both are single and interested in purchasing the estate. Deep in a lengthy conversation, the man proposes marriage to the woman who initially resists, but the mutual attraction is clear, and she agrees.

Fortunately, the voice of reason appears in the guise of one called The Agent (James Kelleher). He calls marriage “The devil’s own trap” and a “nest so small there is no room for disagreement.”

In a surprise twist, a guard (Caryl Davidson) arrives, informing all that The Agent has been reading George Bernard Shaw and was the ideal husband to 14 women. Davidson is there for a purpose but only briefly.

Noel and Armstrong valiantly keep the dialogue straight and flowing. Both are skilled performers in delivering the trajectory of this comedy of love and relationships. But the best part of this one-act is their bantering about compatibility, covering everything from dancing the tango to socialism.

“Yesterday,” written by American actor and novelist Colin Campbell Clements, is an endearing one-act play performed sweetly by two more “senior” actors, Helen Harold and Randy Margison. At a country estate coming-out party (“the young ladies are all arms and legs nowadays”) with “unspeakable infernal music,” Lady Anne and British officer (he’s a general) Richard are conversing about the years past and past loves. True, there is a predictable ending, but Harold and Margison unveil it with dignity, manners and grace. Of the two one-acts, “Yesterday” is my favorite – a drama dealing with love, loss and change.

The shows run 25 and 16 minutes, respectively.

PM&L Theatre, long an area favorite, has been a theater community since 1960. A dozen individuals donated $10 each then, and the grand startup total for the theater was just $120. PM&L rented the Lakes Theatre on Main Street, and has been in business ever since.

For the return to live theater, their “curtain’s up, mask up” policy demonstrates their current concern for the health, safety and well-being of patrons and staff; all patrons are required to wear a mask regardless of immunity, and staff will provide one if you don’t have one. PM&L also put in place a new air filtration and purification system, as well as the employment of a professional staff for regular cleaning and sanitation.

Their season 59 1/2 starts Oct. 8, with a production of the comedy “Ripcord,” followed by the beloved “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 3. Welcome back!

• Regina Belt-Daniels has been involved in many aspects of theater since the first grade when her rather bossy Mother Goose character ensured her desire to do more shows. She currently serves on the RCLPC Theater Board and It’s Showtime Advisory Committee, and enjoys writing theater reviews.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “(Recorded) Live on Main Street” virtual one-acts by PM&L Theatre

WHERE: 877 Main St., Antioch

WHEN: Available on-demand

COST: $10 suggested donation

INFORMATION: 847-395-3055, pmltheatre.com