A Very, Very, Very Late Afternoon With David Ives, Bulldog 17, at Live Bait Theater. For this David Ives sampler, Bulldog 17 has selected four one-acts from Ives’s All in the Timing collection. There are a few laughs to be had, but performing Ives should be more than racing through bizarre verbal exchanges, playing up all the zingers and double takes. The evening’s strongest moments come when the actors tap into the dialogue’s emotional underpinnings. In the absurd “Universal Language,” directed by April Neujean, what work best are the tender moments between a stuttering student (Marisa Paonessa) and her teacher (Paul Vitulli) following the student’s earnest plea to express herself. “English Made Simple,” directed by Paonessa, benefits from the personalities Neujean and Vitulli bring to their characters, whose quest for love is apparent in the subtext of their stiff exchanges of sample party dialogue.

“The Philadelphia” and “Sure Thing” are less successful because Bulldog 17 doesn’t slow down long enough to create sympathetic characters. Vitulli gives himself nowhere to go when he enters “The Philadelphia” at peak energy, and Pasquale Vitulli as his companion and Paonessa as a waitress overplay their stock types. In “Sure Thing,” about a cafe pickup that takes a different direction each time a triangle is rung, Neujean makes Betty’s diverse reactions credible, but Pasquale Vitulli’s performance again rings false.

–Jenn Goddu