Context is everything.
While the LGBT themes of the short-play festival "Shorts Gone Wild 3" are still edgy by some standards, the rapid advancement of gay rights and same-sex marriage may have tamed some of the wildness for many theatergoers.
More to the point, the joint effort by Broward County's Island City Stage and Miami-Dade's City Theatre is all hijinks and heart, and yet more settled and assured. Throughout the seven playlets, topics range from silly and sanguine to warm and touching. There is a feeling that the playwrights don't know it all, that the impulse to wrap things up neatly after 10 minutes isn't as forced as in seasons past. And even though the pieces have disparate textures and colors — eight very different playwrights are represented — there is a completeness and a finish that is quite satisfying.
After playing Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale through Sept. 6, the show will move to the Fillmore Miami Beach for a Sept. 10-13 run.
The show's local playwrights include Michael McKeever, whose "The Agenda" involves gay-rights advocates struggling with political correctness and inclusiveness on a massive scale. Michael Leeds' "I'm Going First" presents a couple standing outside a funeral home while gently bickering over who will die first. Stuart Meltzer's "Quiche or Quinoa" has three old friends meeting for lunch, which quickly spirals out of control with rivalry and one-upmanship. In "Oldest Living Chorus Boy Tells All, or the Last of Billy Button" by Tony Finstrom opens with an aged and wheelchair-bound former "Gypsy" telling of his glory days on the Great White Way, mostly in the biggest flops.
"Shorts Gone Wild 3" also includes New York playwright Paul Rudnick's "My Husband," in which a mother has gone too far trying to outdo other moms with gay sons. "The Anthropology Section" by San Francisco's Patricia Cotter finds two women, former partners, reconnecting in a bookstore. After some awkward banter, one blurts out that she's just returned from her honeymoon. Marriage was, apparently, the reason the relationship ended. In "Hands," by New York's Becca Schlossberg, two high schoolers go from friends to something more intimate, even as the specter of abuse keeps intruding. In "The One" by New York's Sheri Wilner, old college flames reunite to meet a new fiancé. But are the right two getting married?
Audience members decide the order of the plays by pulling their titles from a hat. The A-team of actors switching moods and shifting characters over two hours (including a 15-minute intermission) includes Antonio Amadeo, Larry Buzzeo, Niki Fridh, Christina Groom, Craig Moody and Gladys Ramirez.
"Shorts Gone Wild 3" will run through Sept. 6 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-519-2533. The show will then appear Sept. 10-13 at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave. Call 305-673-7300 or go to FillmoreMB.com. Showtimes at both venues are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 5 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets cost $30.