11/5: For Better at Actors Summit

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If it took place 300 years ago, Cleveland Heights playwright Eric Coble’s farcical For Better would call for lots of door-slamming. If it took place 20 years ago, there would be telephones slamming down. But this topical story unfolds in the age of cell phones, e-mails and text messages, so instead of old stage gestures, this one includes characters fiercely flicking their wrists as they snap off their cells and shut their laptops. “It’s a Shakespearean/ Molière kind of high-stakes love affair with all the same emotions and needs to connect,” says Coble. “But the characters do it through little LCD screens.” The girl is a quality-control officer for Hometown Buffet; the guy is a locations scout for Starbucks. They meet at a food conference and fall in love, talking several times a day on the phone. But after that initial meeting, they never actually see each other. The play explores the culture and manners of communication in the digital age through their courtship. “I call one of the first big scenes a fugue for cell phones,” says Coble. “All the main characters are calling each other, putting each other on hold in what becomes a seven-minute piece of verbal music.” Commissioned by the National New Play Network, For Better has been performed around the country, but Actors’ Summit production, which opens with a preview at 8 tonight, is Ohio’s first. Performances run through November 22, at Actors’ Summit Theatre (86 Owen Brown St., Hudson, 330.342.0800). Tickets: $16-$29. — Michael Gill

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