DING! 4 PLAYS ABOUT AUTOMATIC RESPONSE, at the Playground. This quartet of one-acts–the debut of 13 unfledged actors–begins promisingly with two popular David Ives playlets smoothly directed by Clayton Faircloth. In Words, Words, Words Ives subverts the preposterous idea that over eternity three monkeys would eventually type Hamlet. Desperate to make good, his chimps casually reinvent Marx, Milton, and finally the Danish tragedy, never comprehending the power of letters on a page. Sure Thing is a writer’s fantasy about second chances: a man attempting to score on a first date constantly rewrites the evening’s dialogue until he gets to first base. Christopher Walsh and Amanda Harbut handle the verbal bout (which includes an offstage bell between the “rounds”) with gusto and aplomb.

The showcase sours, however, with two original one-acts. Turned On, written and performed by Joanie Schultz, is a deliberately daffy monologue by a housewife in love with her kitchen appliances. (Her feminist mother never should have discouraged her homemaking impulses.) At least this half-baked performance goes nowhere quickly–Dan Telfer’s tastelessly named Love Oven goes nowhere slowly. In this 45-minute curiosity a murdered mother cheerfully returns to her disintegrating family: the eldest son has fallen in love with a toaster, a “metal fetish” that spells doom for the suicidal dad but redemption for the son’s scapegrace brother. This mishmash of hip melodrama and strained surrealism is given an appropriately stiff and clumsy staging.

–Lawrence Bommer