First Nighter: John Yearley's "The Unrepeatable Moment" Full of Enthralling Moments

Although John Yearley has been writing plays for some time, he's not especially well known--certainly not as well known as he should be on the evidence of the six short plays composed over the years 2002-2015 that are included in The Unrepeatable Moment, a bracing and disturbing collection at The Barrow Group.

On the evidence of these brief, yet extremely pithy sketches, Yearley is interested in people who urgently need to get things off their chests or who compulsively need to keep things on their chests when caught in circumstances that call for them to deal somehow and often desperately with pressing feelings. These are ordinary people who, whether they're giving in to their urges or holding them back, tend to speak in restrained tones on whatever they can bring themselves to say. As Yearley presents them, they're all achingly familiar.

Adroit as Yearley is in offering his six situations, he needs a director and actors who understand the requirements. In directors K. Lorrel Manning and Shannon Patterson and the actors identified below, he's absolutely found them.

In "Hating Beckett" Robert (Jeremy Folmer) has delivered himself of a diatribe on the renowned Irish playwright when fiancée Sarah (Lily Dorment), sitting across the table, flicks a roll at him. When he asks what that was for, she replies it was an unrepeatable moment, but it had another motive. Rather than listen to him rant about minor concerns, she's reached the point where she'd appreciate his talking more openly about himself, something he's apparently loath to do. How she achieves her end constitutes the rest of a skit that has a tempered happy ending.

In "My Father's Heart" Chris (Daniel Guggenheim), who appears professorial and is having a problem with his rebellious son, asks much younger Brian (Ryan Black), who seems to be a secretary, for any insights he might have on father-child relationships. Anguished, he sets off Brian's memories of his son-father dealings. Brian talks about the tattoo of a heart on his arm, and his disclosure leads both men to come to terms with their problems.

In "Horrible Person That I Am" Jane (Tricia Alexandro) arrives in colorful outfit (McKenna DuBose the costume coordinator) for a blind date and proceeds to unburden herself of what seems to be everything on her addled mind. In the course of her rambling disclosures, she even spews the phrase "horrible person that I am" and eventually suggests that she's not yet ready for dating. It's a sad but thoroughly convincing character study.

In "Slave" T. J. (Tony Drazan) another confused guy--this one apparently addressing an all-ears bartender--goes into his disintegrating life, and again Yearley coaxes genuine pathos from a not entirely unfamiliar situation.

In "Racist Donut" Viola (Jeanine T. Abraham) is in a hospital waiting room while her son, whose jaw has been broken in a lacrosse game, is being seen to. On another chair Lindsey (Amy Loughead) is expecting news of her nephew, who's being treated for damaged fingers. Lindsey engages Viola in conversation, although Viola isn't in the chatting mood. Because Lindsay is white and Viola is black, the conversation becomes embroiled in the subject of racism and even starts feeling racist. One of Yearley's twists is that the two women have more in common than first meets the eye. Their handling of that revelation distinguishes this eventful one-act.

In "A Low-Lying Fog" brothers Phil (Mike Giese) and Greg (Brant Amundson) are describing, perhaps to a therapist, an evening when the former was driving the latter around to cheer him after the break-up of his marriage. Yearley has another of his unexpected revelations on tap here. It won't be unfolded, except to say that the not necessarily symbolic fog through which they were driving leads to some unfortunate turns. It's probably fair to add that, for purposes soon enough vouchsafed, Phil is increasingly agitated while telling his part of the story, and Greg is much more accepting of his.

Sometimes understatement is the best kind of statement. It's surely true of these six pieces, and it's also surely true that dramatist Yearley proves to be a master of understatement. Congrats to him and to the 11 actors--including Deon Frank--and two directors who bring him so realistically alive.