Words & Weirds -- Tremont's Convergence-Continuum company has forged a reputation for presenting quirky, thought-provoking, and satisfyingly oblique works that other groups wouldn't dare touch. Of course, when you're working on that particular ledge, it's always easy to slip off. In their current production of two one-acts, both ends of risk-taking theater are on display. "Tone Clusters," by acclaimed novelist and short-story writer Joyce Carol Oates, is a true portrait in suburban American Gothic: Desperately normal Frank Gulick and his wife, Emily, sit facing the audience as they're interviewed by an unseen voice, apparently belonging to the reporter for an Inside Edition type of TV sleazefest. As the two field questions both mundane and profound, we learn that Carl, their 22-year-old son, has been arrested for the murder of a teenage neighbor girl. Under the direction of Douglas H. Snyder, Clyde Simon and Lucy Bredeson-Smith both give finely calibrated performances, nervously glancing at each other and squirming under the scrutiny of their community and the world beyond. As the Q&A goes on, we see how average people's lives can be distorted by events out of their control. In the second piece, "Whirligig," by Mac Wellman, a runaway punkette meets a space alien at an interstellar bus stop, where they are visited by a bus driver and three versions of the girl's tightass preppy sister. The playwright's trademark word games -- including free associations and alliterative avalanches -- amount to nothing more than grimly determined verbal masturbation. Director Clyde Simon evidently poured all his energy into his role in the first play and had little left over to deal with this mess. Presented by Convergence-Continuum through November 20 at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road, 216-687-0074. -- Howey
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