ASR Theater ~~ Quirky, Comical and Weird: “Pear Slices 2024”

By Joanne Engelhardt

Mountain View’s Pear Theatre is unique in the mid-Peninsula area in that it supports its own playwrights guild. This year’s compilation of eight short plays – all written by members of The Pear Playwright’s Guild – can justifiably be called an entertaining evening of theatre.

Half of the eight are directed by Troy Johnson, and half by Arcadia Conrad. Johnson, a member of The Pear’s board of directors, has co-directed Pear Slices 16 times, while Conrad is co-directing at the Pear for the first time.

” … ‘Pear Slices 2024′ is worth seeing …”

A mere half-dozen versatile actors make up the cast for all eight short plays, which means sometimes an actor must rush off stage in one costume and walk out in about a minute in a totally different outfit and persona. That usually means there’s a trained off-stage crew helping the actors handle their quick changes.

Several of the short plays are both engrossing and comical – something not always easy to achieve. Two of the best are whimsical or whacky – or both! That certainly describes Brick House, written by Paul Braverman, who not only is a member of Pear’s board but is also an actor and playwright.

It brought down the house watching three actors walk on with pink pig snorts and ears, earnestly discussing the pros and cons of whether to build their homes out of straw, sticks or brick. Pig 1 (Bezachin Jifar) lords it over the other two pigs (Lizzie Izyumin and Arohan Deshpande) because his house is made of brick and he knows the Fox (Vanessa Alvarez) won’t be able to blow his house down. The humorous dialog has Pigs 2 and 3 mixing up the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood with the fox. Silly? Yes. Funny: Absolutely.

Bezachin Jifar in “Brick House” by Paul Braverman.

Greg Lam’s clever take on all things Shakespearean is another fine short play. Called Juliet’s Post Credits Scene, Lam manages to include the names of a dozen or more Shakespeare plays (with one actor almost saying the dreaded word MacBeth inside the theater!)

Cleaning Up, written by Christine C. Hsu, is another interesting short. Actors Jifar and Vivian Truong expertly unfold the odd but interesting storyline. Truong plays Ruby, who was previously married to Jifar’s Donny. His second wife recently passed away, and Ruby attended her funeral, bringing food for the reception afterward. It’s just a simple plot, but the two actors make it come alive and retain our attention.

Jenna Ruby Marvet at work in “Pear Slices 2024.”

While the short called I’m Not Her by Teresa Veramendi is somewhat difficult to watch, it’s nevertheless riveting thanks to the performance of its lone actor, Jenna Ruby Marvet playing the character Passion Monster. It’s not easy to keep an audience’s attention for 10+ minutes when you’re on stage all alone, but Marvet manages to do just that.

L-R: Bezachin Jifar and Vivienne Truong in CLEANING UP by Christine C. Hsu.

Although Truong is never seen (only heard), she nevertheless is the most interesting person in Cherielyn Ferguson’s Backyard. The setting is the backyard of Dana (Vanessa Alvarez) who is sitting with her friend Jill (Izyumin). They’re discussing plans for a school book fair and Truong (as Robin) is supposed to join them. Instead, Dana and Jill hear Robin constantly berating her children, screaming at them to do what she says. Disparate reactions of Jill and Dana are the heart of this play.

(L-R): Bezachin Jifar and Jenna Ruby Marvet in “Juliet’s Post Credits Scene” by Greg Lam.

Three other short plays complete this year’s Pear Slices. One, Accidental Immortal by Sophie Naylor left this reviewer a tad confused, with actor Arohan Deshpande (Charlie) rushing his lines a bit, and Marvet showing up in a mask as Death.

This reviewer also thought the two remaining short plays could benefit from a bit more polish. The first is Bridgette Dutta Portman’s Fertile Soil featuring Marvet and Truong as two women planting a garden. The storyline has promise, but seems to run out of gas by play’s end. Ditto the second and last play of the night, The Tarot Reading by Sophie Naylor. (Suggestion to The Pear: Make sure the last show is a crowd pleaser because the audience needs to leave the theater with a good feeling about the plays.)

Overall, Pear Slices 2024 is worth seeing, both to admire the work of The Pear’s Playwright’s Guild as well as the production of short plays by those same playwrights.


Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionPear Slices 2024
Written byThe Pear Playwrights’ Guild
Directed byTroy Johnson and Arcadia Conrad
Producing CompanyThe Pear Theater
Production DatesThru June 2nd
Production Address1110 La Avenida, Suite A, Mountain View
Telephone(650) 254 - 1148
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
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