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DARK PONY and REUNION, RowHouse Theatre. Outdoor theater often offers the noisy challenges of sirens, planes, junkyard dogs, and elevated trains–all nonnegotiable distractions in RowHouse Theatre’s Uptown backyard, where six very nice trees shelter a suitably small stage.

Early works by David Mamet, these two terse but never cryptic one-acts focus on fathers and daughters. In the 15-minute Dark Pony Mamet freezes but never dries what seems a personal memory. Driving home, a father (Michael Ludden) entertains his little girl (Dorislee Jackson) with an Indian fable about Rain Boy and his Dark Pony–a tale both comforting and mysterious. Director Frederick Husar keeps the performance as unpretentious as a bedtime story.

In the 45-minute Reunion a father and daughter, separated by his alcoholism and her marriage, catch up on 20 years of unfinished emotional business. Now on the wagon, the father–a hot-blooded short-order cook–helps his daughter cope with her damaged marriage and his absence as a parent. Moving from idle chat to Mametian exhortation (“take the chance” and “pay the price”), these vignettes conclude with the presentation of a gold bracelet, a gift that stands for much more sharing. Ludden’s staging sometimes loses the big issues amid the small talk, but Husar’s earnest, salt-of-the-earth dad and Jackson’s love-hungry daughter fit well together.

–Lawrence Bommer