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"Shorts Gone Wild" is a gay-rrific evening of one-acts at Empire Stage

Staff Writer

When the cast members of “Shorts Gone Wild” bound onstage, they are shooting off that bubbly “improvey” energy that promises a laugh-riot of an evening.

And they fulfill, performing eight gay-themed (with a little bisexual thrown in for good measure) short plays produced at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage through a partnership between Miami’s City Theatre and Wilton Manors’ Island City Stage.

The thing that may throw the momentum of the evening off a just a little, especially considering that shooting-off-sparks-entrance by six truly gifted actors, is that the audience decides the order in which the playlets are performed.

Now that isn’t a big deal…unless those selected right off the bat are not the hysterically funny ones -- like Paul Rudnick’s “The Gay Agenda” or perhaps Kim Ehly’s “The Happy Ones” -- but instead the more warmly humorous and diffident one-acts, such as “Mallory Square” by Christopher Demos-Brown or “Unexpected” by Mark Della Ventura.

Don’t misread this; the payoff is more than worth the minuscule adjustment you might have to make for the rhythm of the performance. It’s kind of like getting your appetizer and dessert delivered along with your main course. Just nibble from delicious plate to equally delicious plate. There are some new works here from South Florida talent and they feel fully formed. Wolf them down now because who knows when this much talent will coalesce again.

In addition to Ehly, Della Ventura and Demos-Brown, other local playwrights in the show include Tony Finstrom and Michael Leeds. And there is a cut-up of a coda by Doug Wright. The A-team actors injecting ebullient energy for two hours with a 15-minute intermission include Nikki Fridh, Rayner Garranchan, Andy Quiroga, Gladys Benton, Matt Stabile and Janet Weakly.

It’s a marvel to sit back and watch how much color this cast imbues into 10-minute pieces. There’s the 1930s screwball comedy feel of Finstrom’s “Mr. and Mr. Smith,” where a Hollywood hunk wakes up in a hospital to discover he is married to his male stand-in, and Leeds’ “Read This Play!” where a playwright, insisting his latest work be read, holds a gun to an artistic director’s head.

By the time you’ve taken in the others – “Unexpected” (a surprising connection on New Year’s Eve), “Mallory Square” (a gay couple asks their hetero friends for a big favor) and “The Happy Ones” (a gay actress sees red flags when a neighbor invites her over for a glass of wine) – you might start to think that the do-it-yourself lineup is serendipitous rather than a jumble.

 “Shorts Gone Wild” plays through Sept. 1 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $30. 954-519-2533 or

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